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Cablegate: Leading Estonian Mp Discusses Russia

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DE RUEHTL #0588/01 2501320
ZNR UUUUU ZZH (CCY AD062DBA MSI7666-695)
R 071320Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY TALLINN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0153
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 2549
RUEHSI/AMEMBASSY TBILISI 0172

UNCLAS TALLINN 000588

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SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D COPY CAPTION

EUR/NB FOR KATHERINE GARRY
INR FOR STOLTENBERG AND INR/B
H FOR BETSY FITZGERALD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR RU GG EN
SUBJECT: LEADING ESTONIAN MP DISCUSSES RUSSIA

REF: A) TALLINN 519 B) TALLINN 547

1. (SBU) During a recent meeting with the Ambassador, Marko
Mihkelson, head of the Parliament's EU Affairs Committee,
highlighted as important issues: regional security and
stability issues, Russia and President Vladimir Putin's
political future, and Russia's re-tooling of history. He
also emphasized Estonia's need to counter recent hostile
rhetoric from Moscow. A serious thinker in Parliament on
foreign policy, Mihkelson's views and concerns on Russia
reflect those of numerous other Estonian interlocutors,
both in and out of government.

-- Georgia: Mihkelson asserted that Georgia is the most
important hotspot in the region. "The EU cannot give up on
Georgia" he said, given that it is symbolically vital, and
"Russia only accepts those who stand up for themselves."
-- Chechnya: Mihkelson is a former journalist who covered
the first Chechen War. He has made numerous trips to the
Caucusus, maintaining contact with many key players in the
region. During his last trip, Mikhelson said, he found the
journey by car from Grozny into the Chechen mountains
smoother and obstructed by fewer checkpoints than on
previous visits.

-- Russia: Mihkelson, who still has many contacts within
the Russian media, noted the lack of any press freedom in
Russia - except for in some small print newspapers with
limited circulation. He asserted that the "Kremlin's
political technologists are doing a good job" preparing for
the March 2008 elections to the Russian Duma. All signs
point to United Russia winning about 60 percent of the
vote, he said. However, Mihkelson feels that Putin's
regime is unstable. While it is likely Putin will leave
office next year, he will be back as president again in
less than four years, Mikhelson predicted.

-- Russian history and nationalism: "Russia is using
history as a weapon," Mihkelson said in reference to
accusations from Moscow that Estonia harbors fascist
sympathies and a lack of respect for the Soviet Union's
sacrifices during WWII. At a time when Russia should be
working to address its demographic, health and
infrastructure problems, he said, it is creating more
tension with the West. Mikhelson also drew the
Ambassador's attention to this summer's meeting of the
Russian nationalist youth organization "Nashi" ("Ours"),
and a professionally produced recruiting video which
encourages Russian youth to join the army because war with
the resource-hungry United States is inevitable. Note:
The video can be found at
www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_jNBieB4d8. End note)

-- Travel to Washington: Mikhelson mentioned his interest
in traveling to Washington in March 2008 and asked for
assistance setting up meetings with the Senate Committee on
Foreign Relations (SCFR).

Bio Information

2. (SBU) Marko Mihkelson is Chairman of the Estonian
Parliament's EU Affairs Committee, which is responsible for
adopting EU legislation into Estonian law and crafting
Estonia's positions on many issues in Brussels. He is a
highly respected expert in the Estonian government on
Russia and energy security. He has called for a stronger
EU position on energy in response to Russia's attempts to
control gas supply and distribution. Mihkelson has also
advocated for a stronger Estonian response to the rising
level of hostile rhetoric in Russia directed at Estonia,
the U.S. and the West.

3. (SBU) Mihkelson, whose professional career began in
journalism, worked as Postimees' Moscow correspondent from
1994 to 1997. (Note: Postimees is Estonia's paper of
record. End note.) During this time, he covered Chechnya
and he has traveled frequently in the Caucasus. In 1999,
Mikhelson founded the Baltic Center for Russian Studies and
was its director from 2000 to 2003. He was first elected
to the Parliament in 2003 and is a member of the Pro
Patria-Res Public (IRL) Party.

4. (U) Mihkelson has a good working relationship with the
Embassy. He has met Senators Biden and Lugar on past
visits to Washington.

PHILLIPS

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