Sten Hankewitz: Can your enemy’s friend be your friend?

“This is my last election … After my election I have more flexibility.”

“I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”


This exchange happened between US President Barack Obama and Russian then-President Dmitri Medvedev in March 2012. Between then and now, Medvedev became Prime Minister (and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin President), and Obama was re-elected. The era of more flexibility has begun.

By the title of this article I am not trying to imply that Russia is necessarily an enemy of Estonia. Russia is more like a highly annoying mother-in-law who at all times tries to criticise her son-in-law and tells her daughter how evil the guy is. Nothing the son-in-law does pleases the mother-in-law – she can find a fault in anything and everything.

Good relations with Russia depend on Russia


Good relations with Russia have always depended on Russia itself. If Russia doesn’t want to have a good relationship with you, then it doesn’t really matter what you do. You can jump all the hoops you want, it’s Russia that dictates your relationship with it. And Russia for all its might definitely doesn’t need good relations with Estonia (or Latvia for that matter). They’re too insignificant to be useful in that regard, therefore Russia has made them look very significant as their enemies, as a huge risk to their national security. And they don’t (Russian government) get tired of reminding everyone of that.

The United States, however, is a different matter. Russia knows how important its relations with the superpower are, so they’re trying to do whatever they can to be on the good side of the US. Let’s not forget that the official demise of the Soviet Union started from the fact that they needed to make huge “concessions” regarding the human rights situation in the Soviet Union – they needed the US to save them from the huge economical mess they had created, and that was the precondition of then-President Ronald Reagan to even think about helping the Soviets. So has the US remained extremely important until this day.

A relationship of trust with a pariah?

When elected President four years ago, Barack Obama started working hard on changing the entire US foreign policy. Countries that were staunch allies of the US, were disregarded and neglected, and countries that didn’t have particularly warm relations with the US, were embraced and brought forward as future partners. Russia was one of these pariah states Obama opened up to with his new START treaty for reduction of nuclear weapons.

By signing this treaty, Obama left the US and Europe in a much weaker position. President Obama, unlike any of his predecessors, entered into a relationship of trust with Russia – a country of dictatorship, appointed leaders, few human rights, and an openly expansionist policy. Many American presidents before had tried to have a working relationship with either Russia or the Soviet Union, but none before have actually trusted a pariah that imprisons or murders people inconvenient to the ruling regime.

Barack “Appeasement” Obama

By promising to be even more flexible with Russia on his second term, President Obama expands his trust. At the moment we have no idea what else he might take up, although we do know that he promised, “the best is yet to come”. For a president who has neglected his country’s relations with its natural allies, and whose government´s lack of action has all but destroyed the American economy and the American way of life – the so-called American Dream – this promise sounds really, really scary.

So here’s a thinking point for Estonia and other European nations that Russia (or the Soviet Union) has either occupied, waged war against, is constantly trying to undermine or is outright dangerous to. Can President Obama, who is synonymous with the word “appeasement”, who has openly declared to be friends with a dictatorship and is promising even more “flexibility” with this pariah regime, really be considered good, supportive or even neutral? Can we really say that he’s a good choice for president from Estonia’s perspective? Or is he about as much of a good guy as FDR (Franklin D. Roosevelt) who sold Eastern Europe to Stalin in a heartbeat?

The Cold War hasn’t gone anywhere

You can think what you will about Mitt Romney. But when he called Russia America’s geopolitical enemy number one, he was dead right. He knows that the Cold War did not end 20 years ago. The Cold War cannot end before Russia has become a functioning democracy, before Russia stops threatening its neighbours and initiates normal relations with other countries. As long as the mentality of the Soviet Union is alive in the ruling regime of the Russian Federation, as long as its leaders keep believing that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century, the Cold War is alive and kicking.

So we’ve got to ask ourselves, can your enemy’s friend really be your friend? No, he can’t. At best, he’s useless. At worst, he’s outright dangerous.


The opinions in this article are those of the author.

Pictures: Wikimedia Commons.

2 thoughts on “Sten Hankewitz: Can your enemy’s friend be your friend?”

  1. this article is filled with unoriginal simplistic reductionist arguments that demonstrate a certain kind of myopic thinking. the author’s opinion of fdr is a perfect example. people need to read history for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

    1. Absolutely correct Taleman. The line about the Cold War not being over is when I nearly double over with laughter. The truth is that so far as Estonia is concerned Russia is not an enemy in spite of rhetoric. EVEN If the Estonian government banned the speaking of Russian, Russian literature and Russian vodka tomorrow all that would happen is that Putin would make some self-righteous speech about respect, the Communists would bang on about Soviet solidarity, Zhirinovsky would call for the dropping of 10 hydrogen bombs on Tallinn and in reality what would happen? Absolutely nothing.

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