Seminar “Russia and NATO expansion: New Era of Russia-Estonia Relations” held in Tallinn
The Estonian organization ”Baltic Center of Russian Studies” organized a seminar. Russian specialists, political scientists, analysts, and officials of different levels took part in the seminar. The Russian delegation at the seminar was headed by chairman of the Federation Council Committee for International Affairs Mikhail Margelov. Representatives of the Russian cities of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and chairman of the Pskov administration committee for foreign relations and tourism Vadim Laptev took part in the seminar. Vadim Laptev told us about the event; he said that the problems discussed at the seminar concerned the citizens of Pskov, because the city borders Estonia.
What problems discussed during the seminar, and what was your role?
Being a representative of the Pskov regional administration, I suggested for discussion problems concerning relations between Russia and NATO, Russia and Estonia particularly. Special attention was paid to the inter-state policy of our countries with respect to each other against the background of the current events in the world and in Europe especially. I focused my report on the problems of border cooperation, on possible variants of the development of our cooperation, and to the consequences of decision made in connection with Estonia’s incorporation into NATO and further entry into the European Union. The world is changing every day, and it is changing very close to our bounders. After a while, we’ll have to establish relations with Estonia on a new level, as it will inevitably enter the European Union. These were the problems discussed at the seminar. Basically, there were three groups of problems at the seminar.
The second group consisted of security problems; experts on defense and security from both sides were the key reporters at the seminar.
The third group consisted of problems of the mass media. Representatives of the presidential administration, the information department, the Rosbalt news agency, the Itogi political magazine, and the“Civil Club” organization delivered reports on the problem. Russia’s Ambassador to Estonia Konstantin Provalov was also an active participant of the seminar.
Tell us what are the positive and the negative consequences to Russia, and to the Pskov region first of all, from Estonia’s entry into NATO and the European Union.
If we consider the Pskov region as Russia’s border territory, which is also one of the country’s buffer regions, we should keep it in mind that Estonia’s entry into NATO and the European Union will certainly have positive as well as negative consequences for Russia. When Estonia becomes a EU member, Russia will border immediately the European Union. In this connection, we hope that transit via our territory will help develop Russia’s own infrastructure and additional earnings to budgets of all levels. It is certainly a positive factor for the whole of the Pskov region.
The negative consequence is plainly seen already now: it is supposed that the visa regime for entering Estonia will be toughened not only for all Russians, but also, and real estate in Estonia. We perceive every year that the visa regime is becoming tougher, and the tendency is more obvious, especially in connection with Estonia’s incorporation into the European Union. The second very important aspect is the problem of national security. We understand perfectly well that NATO is a military block that focuses on military objectives. We do not know if there are any other objectives, in addition to territorial ones, of NATO’s expansion eastwards. Let’s hope that all obligations in connection with the agreements between Russia and NATO will clear things up. As of today, there are no guarantees that no tactical and strategic weapons, including nuclear ones, will be based on the territory of Estonia, and that no infrastructure will be developed to increase the NATO military contingent. In this connection, quite reasonable apprehensions arise. This is by no means NATO’s intention to attack Russia. The present-day political situation reveals that NATO and the USA have no intention to attack Russia.
Let’s hope that there will be more statesmen than politicians in both countries, Estonia and Russia. As is known, the former think about generations to come, and the latter think only about upcoming elections. Future generations of Pskov citizens and Estonians will be living side by side. It would be nice to have a good neighborhood; we hope that the Pskov region will profit from Estonia’s incorporation into the European Union.
Mikhail Yermolenko Pskovskaya Pravda newspaper
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://world.pravda.ru/world/2002/5/14/36/3890_laptev.html