Piret Kuusik

Piret Kuusik is a junior researcher at the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute at the International Centre for Defence and Security in Tallinn, Estonia. Her work focuses on Europe and the EU, the Baltic Sea region, Brexit and Franco-German relations. She holds a BA in international relations from the University of York and an MA in international security from the Paris School of International Affairs. You can follow her on Twitter.

Piret Kuusik: What does the 2019 European Parliament election in Estonia tell us?

Following March’s general elections, which produced an unexpected governing coalition, the Estonian society still reels between confusion, disappointment and disagreement. This article was originally published in the International Centre for Defence and Security’s blog. There is a desire to interpret the European Parliament election as a referendum on the government, which the low …

Piret Kuusik: What does the 2019 European Parliament election in Estonia tell us? Read More »

The missing piece in the German foreign policy discourse: the Baltic Sea region

With the recent German coalition agreement in place, attention turns to Germany’s role in Europe.

This article was originally published in the International Centre for Defence and Security’s blog.

Although the German election campaign revolved around issues of domestic politics, the approved coalition agreement included a chapter on Germany’s role in the EU, Europe and the world. There is talk that Berlin is faced with a task of “strategic reflection”. Whether the coalition agreement is the basis for that or not, remains to be seen. Yet, looking from the Baltic Sea region – including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – there is reason for concern.

In public appearances at the Munich Security Conference and the London School of Economics in February, the German defence minister, Ursula von der Leyen, represented the idea of comprehensive approach in Germany’s foreign and security policy.

A comprehensive approach is nothing new in the security discourse. The core idea is that development and security complement each other in areas affected by conflict. In the words of von der Leyen at the Munich Security Conference, “After a hard-fought battle to drive ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – editor) out of a city, we can only win the hearts and minds of the people by ensuring that water, electricity and jobs are quickly restored. At the same time, aid workers need to know that they are not alone and defenceless – that military personnel are at their side. The aid worker and the soldier need one another.”

What about the defence of Europe?

It is true that in the current climate of international affairs, the areas of conflict, be it in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan or Mali, are some of the most challenging regions in the world and have a direct impact to the EU and Europe. However, the need for a comprehensive approach in these regions is great.

Despite recognising the need of a comprehensive approach in confronting Europe’s many challenges, von der Leyen did not mention any specifics on how Germany will be contributing to the defence of Europe. In the current climate of international affairs, power politics is back, and the EU shares a common border with an aggressive adversary – Russia.

It is troubling that the focus of Germany’s security policy largely remains beyond Europe. Ensuring the security of conflict-inflicted areas outside the EU is as important as NATO commitments in Europe.

Germany currently is NATO’s enhanced forward presence framework country in Lithuania, alongside the UK in Estonia, Canada in Latvia and the US in Poland. Since 2014, Germany has contributed annually to the Baltic Air Policing Mission and frequently takes part in regional exercises and has demonstrated its commitment to developing people-to-people contacts in the region.

Yet, Germany lacks a vision and strategy for the region and Europe vis-a-vis the East.

Germany has been dodging the bullet of European security for years and it seems that it continues to do so.

Time for Germany to take up more responsibility

Germany is the centre of Europe geographically, economically and politically, and it needs to start taking responsibility for European security. Returning to the coalition agreement, Germany’s next government hopes to develop a new sense of responsibility: “We need a new culture of responsibility, where the reliability of Europe as a partner in the Western world increases and where our position distinguishably strengthens.” However, reliability will not come by helping others as long as Germany’s own security and defence issues remain unaddressed.

While the transatlantic relationship continues to be the cornerstone of European security, Germany’s contribution to collective defence should be amplified. The Baltic Sea region would benefit from a clear vision for European security from Germany, including support to the transatlantic relationship and a coherent and realistic foreign policy towards Russia and our eastern neighbours.

Germany celebrates its famous vacationing spots at the Baltic Sea – Ostseeküste. Geographically, Germany is a member of the Baltic Sea region and it is time for Germany to also take up more responsibility for the security of the region.


Cover: Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, meeting the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, at his Sochi residence on 2 May 2017 (the image is illustrative/courtesy of Wikimedia Commons). The opinions in this article are those of the author.

“Work hard, then comes love”– really?

Estonian writer Anton Hansen Tammsaare wrote in his most famous book, “Truth and Justice”, that one must work hard and love will follow. Piret Kuusik contemplates about the true meaning of this wisdom – and says that Tammsaare thought it with irony.

When I was a child, I remember my grandmother saying, “Work hard, then comes love”. From her perspective, it was a motivation for working, because hard-working people will be awarded. In this context, the reward was love.

This sentence comes from a quote by Anton Hansen Tammsaare and originally it is the following: “Work and put effort in, then love will also come.”

“The more I think about it, the more I start thinking that Tammsaare thought it with irony.”

The more I think about it, the more I start thinking that Tammsaare thought it with irony. The way my grandmother and many Estonians use it today does not actually serve its purpose.

In the Estonian culture and daily life, this sentence is used in two ways. Firstly, as I mentioned earlier, it is a justification or a motivation for working. It is presented to comfort work, because it promises to pay off the effort one day. Secondly, it is said during difficult and hard times. It is a way to express hope and get through tough times. When hard times hit, work, because one day love will come and then everything will be alright again and you will forget about difficult times.

But again, the more I think about it and draw on my personal experiences, I believe that Tammsaare meant it ironically. As many say, Tammsaare’s writings from a century ago portray our society nowadays just as well as any contemporary writing and this allows me to construct my following argument. I think that “Work hard, then comes love” was actually written more as an observation to describe our behaviour and not as a “motivational quote” as it is mainly used today.

Truth and Justice

Let me explain – when I work hard, it means I invest time into working and consequentially I do not have much time for loved ones around me, eg family, spouse, children, close friends and acquaintances. But my experiences and observations have taught me that the key to love and good relationships is investing my time and attention into them.

When I am occupied with work all the time, I do not have any time to invest into building relationships and into people, which is the only source of love (which is arguable, but for the sake of the argument, I assume love is received by people). I do not take the time to create mutual memories, learn their interests or share and find similar understandings and beliefs.

“Where does the love come from, when you work all the time and do not invest time into love?”

Therefore, the gap between me and potential lovers, my family, my friends and dear ones increases up to the moment when loved ones eventually will leave, because I am never there, since I am working hard. So here comes my question – where does the love come from, when you work all the time and do not invest time into love?

This is the point where I think Tammsaare himself showed it to us and allows me to say that he considered it with irony. The quote goes further by saying: “You have done and also my mother has done, otherwise she would have not died so early, but love did not come and it has not come until today to Vargamäe.”

The quote says that Andres has worked hard and also Krõõt did, but love did not appear from anywhere. All this time was spent on working on the farm and building the farm for future generations – and now I argue – instead of taking time now and again for loved ones.

Farm was put first believing that good work will reward itself one day. That left love and happy relationships with dearest secondary. I understand that the intentions were good and at the end of the day it was all made for children. But the lack of time in their relationship with parents and Vargamäe did not offer them the time to learn to love it. It demonstrates that love does not appear magically nor it will continue to exist supernaturally, but love needs hard work and time to be invested into it.

I think this is what Tammsaare meant and I think he wrote this line, “Work hard, then comes love”, with a sense of irony by showing that being hard-working in strictly speaking does not bring love. Love does not appear mystically from somewhere; rather one must work for love, and on love, as well.

“Love does not appear mystically from somewhere; rather one must work for love, and on love, as well.”


“Truth and Justice” (note from the editor)

“Truth and Justice” I-V, written in 1926–1933, is a pentalogy by Anton Hansen Tammsaare (1878-1940), considered to be his most famous work, and one of the foundational works in Estonian literature. Tammsaare’s social epic captured the evolution of Estonia from Tsarist province to independent state. It was based partly on the author’s own life and centered on the contrast between the urban middle class and hard-working peasantry.

The book series can be seen as a thorough overview of developments of Estonian society from about 1870 to about 1930; it presents an epic panorama of both the rural and urban societies of that era. Tammsaare’s primary conception was that under the then-applicable conditions, reaching a harmony of both truth and justice is impossible, and thus, while many characters will seek it, none will reach this destination.


Cover: Anton Hansen Tammsaare’s former farm in Estonia (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

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