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Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a privilege to speak here at the Heritage Foundation to this very distinguished and knowledgeable audience.
Today, we are celebrating an important anniversary of U.S.-Baltic co-operation. 85 years ago, diplomatic relations were established between the United States of America and the young Republic of Estonia, thus launching a long-lasting friendship that has truly thrived. Based on the ideas of President Woodrow Wilson, Estonia had just taken advantage of the narrow window of opportunity and had fought itself free. The United States had no particular strategic reason for recognising us; it was done largely out of noble idealism.
Throughout these 85 years, we have stood by each other, not just when it was easy and convenient, but also in times of great need.
During the long night of Soviet occupation, American support for our captive nations was unwavering. Your commitment gave courage to the discouraged, and it was the primary beacon of hope in our struggle for freedom.
I am just coming from the Victims of Communism Memorial, which was opened here in Washington just a day before yesterday. This monument will help us in reminding the world of the inhumane crimes that communism has brought upon mankind. It is also momentous that we hold our conference today – a day of mourning and commemoration in the Baltic States. On June 14th, 1941, the Soviet deportations reached their first tragic peak, when nearly 10,000 people from Estonia alone were deported to Siberia in a single night.
The principled behaviour of the United States is a quality that we greatly admire. The U.S. Freedom Support Act, the pressure that was applied to withdraw the occupying armed forces from our country, and your support for the enlargement of NATO have all contributed to Estonia becoming a democratic, prosperous, and mature country.
America has never abandoned us, and for that, we are grateful.
This, however, is not a one-sided story. Estonia stood by the United States on the tragic September the 11th. As we speak, Estonian soldiers are fighting, shoulder to shoulder, with their American comrades-in-arms in both Baghdad and Afghanistan; we cooperate in the Balkans, as well as work closely together to advance freedom and security in Europe, its neighbourhood, and beyond.
Unlike sometimes assumed, ideals and practicality do not contradict each other. Quite the opposite. America’s and Estonia’s relations have always been based on shared values. But we have also creatively, methodically, and bravely worked for the realisation of these dreams. We do not only believe in freedom, we are certainly ready to do something about it.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As freedom and democracy safeguard our individual liberties at home, they are also the best security guarantee for our nations. We know from our own experience, that freedom cannot always be taken for granted – it needs a favourable environment, and cannot survive unless people make conscious decisions to safeguard it.
Therefore, it is in our interests to help the aspiring peoples in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Our work will eventually widen the zone of stability, and provide for our security in the best possible way.
We are making good progress in Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova. Estonia’s real contribution is our experience, and we have the credibility of a nation that broke free from tyranny and managed to rebuild our society in less than 10 short years.
Relentless efforts are also needed to help resolve the so-called frozen conflicts. Estonia’s position is that the search for political solutions and the search for a working peacekeeping formula must mutually support each other. The current CIS peacekeeping in Moldova is actually having a perpetuating effect on the conflict, rather than facilitating the solution. Therefore, a truly multinational stabilisation mission is needed to replace it.
Estonia has consistently supported the open door policy of the European Union and NATO. We support the extending of NATO’s Membership Action Plan to Georgia next year at the summit in Bucharest. Also, we encourage Ukraine to enhance its cooperation with NATO. We have provided our transition experts to both of these countries to share our experiences. We help the aspirant countries in every way we can, so that one day they can assume their rightful place in the European family of nations.
Estonia will continue its efforts to help the people of Belarus, home of the last true dictatorship in Europe. We are already enlarging our project for training Belarus students, who oppose the repression and who will hopefully become the future leaders of that country. When we act together, it is only a matter of time when Belarus rejoins Europe as a proud, free nation.
A critical issue in the further development of cooperation between America and Estonia is the free movement of ideas, capital, and people. Hence, the need for visa free travel between the European Union and the United States. At this point, I would like to thank the Heritage Foundation for its help in trying to expand the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, so that international travel between the two shores of the Atlantic could truly be free and secure.
The more we share, the more we understand each other and the closer is our friendship.
We have made significant strides since we started the discussions on the expansion of the Visa Waiver Program. And I can proudly assure you, that Estonia meets all of the required security standards. We need a solution to this issue soon, and I hope that the U.S. Congress will take the final necessary steps so that all EU Member States will be able to join the Visa Waiver Program.
Europe and America form a natural alliance. It has been rightfully said that when the EU and the U.S. agree, others follow. A senior political thinker of the EU, Mr. Robert Cooper, has justly noted that “while Europeans talk of human rights and the rule of law, Americans talk of freedom and democracy, but that we really mean the same thing. It is the force of the idea and the power of its practice that conquers.”
Along with efforts to combat terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Estonia recognises the importance of transatlantic cooperation in the areas of energy security and climate change. It is in our mutual interests to secure safe and affordable energy supplies, as well as a friendly and clean environment, for the future generations. At the next EU-U.S. Summit, we should agree to strengthen our alliance in this field, and offer a stronger leadership for the tackling of global energy challenges.
Speaking of challenges – as we know, today’s security is threatened not just by conventional means but increasingly by various other forms of aggression.
In April and May of 2007, Estonia’s key government, industry, media and other websites were heavily and professionally attacked – swamped with information packages in order to paralyze our lines of communication. At the peak moments, the amount of cyber traffic from outside Estonia targeting governmental institutions was 400 times greater than the normal rate. We were the target of a three-week long cyber attack, which was aimed at destabilising our country.
We managed to deal with the offensive rather successfully and, in the process, acquired valuable expertise.
The Internet could become a perfect battlefield of the 21st century. We already know that our enemies need not necessarily target our cities, harbours, or railways only. They can aim an all-encompassing assault at our cyber-infrastructure, and thus harm our ability to effectively defend our people. As a result of an effective political propaganda campaign, a significant number of evildoers could be induced to simultaneously launch a massive cyber attack almost instantly. Hence, it is possible to inflict serious damage to a nation’s critical information infrastructure, especially in highly wired societies. Potential attacks on our cyber-infrastructure should therefore be taken as seriously as conventional attacks aimed at our traditional infrastructures.
Therefore, we have urged NATO to develop a common policy in this new dimension, and we need American support for that to happen. Our alliance should not be constrained by the limits of conventional wisdom, and just as we need to protect ourselves from hostile airplanes, missiles, and submarines, we require a defence for our cyberspace. It is vital to establish a commonly agreed legal definition of cyber warfare and other related items. We also need technical and operational means for countering this new threat.
A few years ago, we established the Cyber Defence Centre in Tallinn. We call upon all NATO Member States to join this centre of excellence, to share the experiences already acquired, and to jointly fight against the increasing threat.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Freedom is still not yet free, and peace is increasingly dependant upon the strength of our democratic alliance.
Many observers have asked whether the recently heard rhetoric from Russia, reminiscent of the Cold War, reflects a trend towards the re-establishment of the Soviet Union. I do not think that it will be possible to restore the Soviet Union – a totally illegitimate and oppressive system – if we are all willing to actively stand by the principles upon which our societies are based.
The great Victor Hugo said in 1851: “A day will come when your weapons will fall from your hands, a day when war will seem absurd and be as impossible between Paris and London, St. Petersburg and Berlin, Vienna and Turin, as today it would seem impossible between Rouen and Amiens, Boston and Philadelphia. /…/ henceforth the goal of great politics, of true politics, is this: the recognition of all nationalities, the restoration of the historical unity of nations and the uniting of the latter to civilization by peace.”
When Hugo was asked when his vision would become a reality, he replied optimistically that it will take just… 400 years!
Fortunately, we already have shining examples of peace and liberty in the world today. And we know a secret recipe: being free and at peace, ruled by law, and not by force, by the people, for the people. For these ideals we, the United States of America and the Republic of Estonia, have worked for 85 years, and will continue to do so.
Thank you and may our alliance continue to be strong!