Addenda to the development of foreign policy thought in Estonia


24 February 2021

In the beginning of the 1990s, with its independence restored and full of promise, Estonia re-entered a world itself just as full of hope. The Cold War was over, the Evil Empire had collapsed and we felt it would be just a matter of time until the victory of democracy across the world. The accession process of Central and Eastern European nations to the European Union and NATO left both sides with the sense that we were riding on the crest of a wave. In Estonia this meant eagerly espousing a societal model based on Western freedoms, openness and globalization, which a large majority of its citizenry supported.  The orientation of the country and society was largely based on consensus and trust was high for those leading foreign policy.

The world has changed in thirty years as has Estonia. We are defended by international organizations while a rules and value-based world order has survived through many changes brought on by various crises.

At the same time we must admit to ourselves that liberal democracy based on individual liberty is no longer a obvious choice;  in various places the growth of inequality as a side-product of globalization has created isolationist tensions even in affluent societies. Estonia’s foreign relations, including EU policy as well as its security policy are increasingly influenced by considerations of domestic expediency, at times by incompetence or simply by lack of understanding of the importance of foreign relations for a small nation.

The tendencies described above are part of democracy, which in turn have brought a widening of debate in society. In addition, Estonia’s openness to the world and its deep international integration have given a voice to a large number of people with the personal experience, interest and ability to participate in debates in these fields, even when their everyday work is in other fields.

The founders of the Estonian Council on Foreign Relations have set as their goal the broader advancement of discussions of foreign policy in a changing world, discussions that take into account Estonia’s perspectives. Policy-makers, diplomats and other active citizens acutely need additional input for Estonia’s foreign policy thinking. We see our mission to play the role of a convener and amplifier, to bring together professionals from government, think tanks, academia, private enterprise, journalism and a wider range of interested citizens, to bring to Estonia a better understanding of the currents and ideas in the policy world, and to help strengthen our expert and intellectually competent understanding of strategic reality.

We are convinced that a rules-based, and especially a world order based on international law, is in Estonia’s interest, where we believe in rational imperatives that derive from the Enlightenment, in human rights and freedoms, democracy, rule of law, a liberal market economy and respect for minorities. It is in Estonia’s interest to defend these values in cooperation with other nations that also share them. We believe too that the continued existence of Estonia is guaranteed by strong ties with allies and partners, for which Estonia must strive for each and every day. We invite active citizens who share our convictions and wish to participate in serious foreign policy discussions to join the Council.

Signed: Founders