Six years ago, on April 27th, a monument to Soldier The Liberator was dismantled in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. The fate of the monument has become a symbol of Russophobia and anti-Russian policy of the Baltic state, a former Soviet republic. A great "contribution" to this behavior of the Baltic state was made by its President Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
The removal of the monument from the pedestal took place six months after Ilves took office as President. He initially opposed the initiative, but on that April night in 2007 he fiercely defended Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and police officers who beat the defenders of the monument. Later Ilves did everything he could to ensure that the relations between Estonia and Russia deteriorated, and the rights of the Russians in the Baltic country were grossly violated.
What kind of person is Toomas Hendrik Ilves? He is different from all the leaders of the post-Soviet space. He is the leader of the country where he was not born. The Estonian leader likes to appear in public wearing a bow tie like a musician or a filmmaker. But the only art he succeeded in is the art of Russophobian propaganda. He has no achievements in musical, artistic, or some other creative career.
Toomas Hendrik Ilves was born on December 26th, 1953 in Stockholm, in a family of Estonian immigrants. His grandmother was Russian, but he never learned her native language, having mastered five other foreign languages. His mother was a stepdaughter of the Foreign Minister of independent Estonia Peeter Rebane. Ilves's family did not like the Soviet Union and chose to escape. Hostility towards the USSR of the future Estonian President stems from his childhood, and later it was transformed into hostility towards the Russian Federation and the Russians in general.
When Ilves was a child, his family moved from Sweden to the United States. There he received his degree in psychology from prestigious universities, Columbia and Pennsylvania. Back in the early years Ilves spent time with Estonian expatriates who were eager to cooperate with the U.S. authorities and the security forces in their fight against the Soviet Union.
Knowledge of five languages and possession of skills of psychological warfare helped Ilves get on the Freedom radio funded by the U.S. State Department. In 1984, he moved to Munich, where the headquarters of the radio station was located at the time. Ilves quickly climbed the career ladder, and after four years of working as an analyst, in 1988 (at the age of 34) he headed the Estonian branch of Freedom. He is a veteran of the Cold War and anti-Soviet propaganda.
Ilves came to the land of his ancestors for the first time only in 1991, and a few years later he moved there permanently. The young country was in dire need of trained staff, and Ilves, with his connections in the U.S. and Europe was very helpful. From 1993-1996 he served as an Ambassador of Estonia in the United States, and in 1996-1998 and 1999 he served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia. The country started negotiations on accession to the EU and NATO, which happened in the spring of 2004, when Toomas Hendrik Ilves served as Foreign Minister.
In 2001 Ilves plunged into the world of the Estonian public policy. He founded the People's Party of moderates, soon renamed into the Social Democratic party. In 2004 he became a member of the European Parliament, and a couple of years later he was entrusted with the highest office. On September 23rd, 2006 members of the Riigikogu (parliament) elected Ilves the third president of independent Estonia. Five years later he was reelected for a second term.
Under Ilves' leadership Estonia joined the euro area (January 1st 2011). However, the success of this development is dubious. For the sake of this poor by European standards country, the people had to tighten their belts (in the words of the President himself), and inflation and the budget deficit had to be curbed at the cost of reduction in public spending. Today, Estonia, being one of the poorest countries of the Eurozone, has to allocate money to save wealthier Greece. Such is the price of the bright European reality.
Ilves was far more memorable not in the economic but the political arena. Russophobia has remained the foundation of his domestic and foreign policy for years. For example, there was a war game "Erna". Its participants took the route followed by the soldiers of the battalion "Abwehr". Former SS actually became national heroes of Estonia, and in Tallinn an exhibition dedicated to one of the leaders of the Third Reich, Alfred Rosenberg (born in the city), was opened.
Under Ilves' leadership the institute of "non-citizens" remained in Estonia. Today, there are approximately 100,000 such people (1.3 million). In Russian schools, 60 percent of classes are taught in Estonian. A special body - language inspection that Russian people called "language inquisition" - was created to enforce compliance with these regulations.
According to European standards, in an area where a minority language is used by 20 percent of the population, it is declared official. In Estonia, there are plenty of areas where Russians constitute more than a fifth of the population, but the Russian language has no status. Ilves explained it this way: "There are no more reasons to speak Russian than English, Urdu or Japanese. Because Estonian is the official language."
Ilves' foreign policy is based on the opposition to Russia. In the early years of his presidency, he was trying to prevent construction of the gas pipeline "Nord Stream" but failed. As soon as the war in South Ossetia was over, the Estonian President defiantly arrived in Georgia, where he announced Russia the aggressor and proposed introduction of sanctions against it. Fortunately, the European Union did not listen to him.
In the fall of 2011, Ilves was re-elected for his second term, and quickly showed that his previous policy was still valid. In December of 2011 he called Russia a "superior race." "They (the Russians) had been a superior race for 50 years. They have long been a nation of masters and had privileges. Now because they no longer have the privileges, some people see this as a loss," Ilves explained his refusal to grant any status to the Russian language.
However, in recent months, Ilves has not been that openly Russophobic. In October of 2012, he agreed to the resumption of the Commission on signing a border treaty with Russia. Unlike Latvia, Estonia still has territorial claims to Russia. If the Estonian President stops persevering on this issue it could be said that he is at least somewhat pragmatic and did not follow his Russophobic consciousness.
In January of 2013, Ilves said that he would like to have good relations with Russia and have a dialogue with it along the lines of the European Union and NATO. However, if the President of Estonia continues to speak in his usual spirit, a dialogue will not be possible. It is not a given that Russia is the one who would lose in the absence of well-developed interstate relations. Rather, it would hurt Estonia more.