The Evolving Foreign Policy of Estonia

It has not always been easy for Estonia, a small democratic republic located in Northern Europe, to assert itself on a global scale. This was particularly true in the aftermath of the Second World War, when the Iron Curtain fell hard, swallowing up the little nation’s independence. The Estonian government was replaced by a puppet regime, the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic; and, foreign policy came down the channels of the USSR command structure. Even then, however, the independent government persisted behind the scenes, with many of its members working to preserve Estonian international interests from diplomatic posts in other nations.

Things changed in 1991, when the fall of the Soviet Union meant the return of the independent government and a chance for Estonia to actively pursue its foreign policy with limited interference from its Russian neighbors. For the next decade and a half, the state’s policies had two main objectives: security through Western alliances and the increased integration of Europe. The state’s induction into both NATO and the European Union in the early 2000’s attests to this. Gradually, Estonia’s policy priorities have also expanded to include preserving the cultural heritage of its people and acting as a trendsetter in cyber matters.

Although some might believe Estonians a Baltic people, they actually consider themselves Nordic; and, Estonian foreign policy continues to make efforts to educate the world of this truth. During his tenure as foreign minister, President Toomas Henrik Ilves asserted Estonia’s commitment its Nordic identity, going so far as to give a speech entitled, Estonia as a Nordic Country. Likewise, the state has joined NATO’s Nordic Battle Group. It has also provided incentives for its business sector to trade more heavily with other Nordic states, making their ties economic as well as military-based.

Estonia’s rise as a major player in cyber issues is a reflection of its strong (and increasing) commitment to technology. This is, after all, a state where the number of mobile phones outnumbers its population, free Wi-Fi is available to everyone and internet access is considered a human right. Its approach is two-pronged: Estonia seeks to both improve cyber security and defend internet users from excessive restrictions. In regards to security, Estonia is home to the Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence. The Centre develops new protective measures, educates the international community and even played host to 29 countries during the Conference on Cyber Warfare. However, the government maintains that security measures should not detract from individual freedoms. Accordingly, Estonia is a prominent advocate against internet-based censorship.

home page

© 2013, All Rights Reserved