By Paul Goble
Moscow won’t be able to use “the Russian speaking diaspora” in Estonia and other Baltic countries as it did in the Donbass, however much propaganda it deploys against such people because they know that they earn more, have more options and will have better pensions in Estonia than in Russia, former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves says.
Russian speakers in Estonia may watch Russian TV, Ilves says, but “the incomes of residents of Estonia are ten times those in Eastern Ukraine,” Estonia is a member of the EU and so its residents can move about freely, and “the minimum pension” in Estonia exceeds the average Russian’s pay and that makes all the difference (ru.krymr.com/a/28606488.html).
Some Russian speakers in Estonia, the former Estonian president tells Krymr.com journalist Kseniya Kirillova, may accept what they see on Russian television because they “haven’t seen with their own eyes the conditions of the Russian provinces” but “attempts to influence Estonian speakers haven’t been crowned with great success.”
Consequently, Ilves says, he “doesn’t think that Moscow will be able to use the Russian-language diaspora in Estonia as it used them let us say in the Donbass. The reason is simple: in addition to propaganda, it is important to consider the material factor as well” because that drives people’s behavior.
“The incomes of residents of Estonia can exceed by an order of magnitude the incomes of residents of the eastern portion of Ukraine. Besides, Estonia is a member of the European Union, and therefore all its citizens, including the Russian speakers, can travel throughout Europe without a visa and earn money there.”
“More than that, “the former president says, “the minimum pension of any grandmother in Estonia exceeds the average pay in Russia, and therefore people simply do not see any sense in uniting with Moscow.”
Ilves also points to the importance of getting energy from sources other than Russia, increasing defense spending, fighting Russian espionage – Estonia is the leader in Europe in this regard –the presence in Estonia and other Baltic countries of NATO forces and combatting Russian disinformation about Estonia.
President Ilves doesn’t draw a broader conclusion, but the implications of his remarks are that those who want to defend the countries of Eastern Europe from Russian hybrid war should focus on improving the economic situation of these countries. If they are more successful than Russia, that will do more to protect them from Russian subversion than almost anything else.