Search

 

Cablegate: Estonia: Scenesetter for Visit of Dhs Secretary

VZCZCXRO2217
OO RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHTL #0363/01 2970937
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 230937Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY TALLINN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0867
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 TALLINN 000363

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DHS FOR SECRETARY CHERTOFF FROM AMBASSADOR PHILLIPS
DEPT FOR CA/VO/F/P ABIGAIL RUPP, BRENDA GREWE
DEPT FOR EUR/PGI IVAN WEINSTEIN
DHS FOR ALLISON BOYD, MARC FREY, CLAYTON SANDERSON, CHRIS
MITARAI, MARK KOUMANS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OVIP PREL CVIS AMGT ASEC AFIN EN
SUBJECT: ESTONIA: SCENESETTER FOR VISIT OF DHS SECRETARY
CHERTOFF

1. (SBU) Summary. Mr. Secretary - welcome to Estonia! Your
October 29 visit to Tallinn is a significant milestone in our
bilateral relationship with Estonia, and will be seen here as
the fulfillment of the President's promise of Visa Waiver
Program (VWP) membership made during his 2006 visit to Tallinn.
Accession to VWP has been a long-standing priority for the
Government of Estonia (GOE), and there is keen interest
regarding the announcement of the first date on which travel may
commence under the program. While there are just over 110,000
Russian-speaking "stateless" residents of Estonia who will not
be able to participate in VWP, the GOE hopes that VWP will
provide another incentive for these non-citizens to naturalize.

2. (SBU) A member of NATO and the EU since 2004, Estonia is a
steadfast ally on all fronts. Estonian forces participate
actively in international military operations including Iraq,
Afghanistan and Kosovo. Estonia relies on NATO guarantees for
its security, particularly in light of the Russian invasion of
Georgia and the often tense nature of Estonian-Russian
relations. Estonia is a role model for democratic reform and
development in former Soviet states (and beyond), and has taken
on a leadership role in promoting international cooperation on
cyber-security. Economically, Estonia's growth has slowed
significantly in the past 12 months and unemployment is creeping
up. The Estonian banking sector has weathered the global
financial crisis -- so far. Estonia joined the Schengen area in
December, 2007. End Summary.

STRONG BILATERAL TIES

3. (SBU) The United States and Estonia are strong allies and
partners. Appreciation for U.S. non-recognition of the Soviet
occupation of Estonia remains an important source of good will
towards the United States. In April 2007, the USG voiced strong
public support for Estonia during riots, cyber attacks and
deteriorating relations with Russia after the GOE decided to
relocate a Soviet era memorial away from the center of Tallinn.
One major challenge for our public diplomacy efforts, however,
remains to engage the next generation of Estonians to ensure
that U.S. - Estonian relations remain strong for the long term.

IN THE HOMESTRETCH FOR VWP

4. (SBU) VWP has long been a priority for the GOE. Estonian
officials raise the issue at every senior bilateral meeting.
GOE officials and the traveling public have become increasingly
anxious to know when VWP travel may begin, especially since
Estonia completed all substantive steps for participation in the
program with the signing last month of the Agreement on
Enhancing Cooperation on Preventing and Combating Serious Crime
(PCSC) in Washington. The President's announcement of VWP
expansion on 17 October was well-received and widely-covered in
Estonia.

5. (U) The Embassy has engaged in considerable outreach to
ensure that Estonian travelers are aware of the biometric
passport requirement and the ESTA requirement. We have also
worked to remind the many Russian passport holders and Estonian
"gray" (stateless) travel document holders that only Estonian
citizens will be able to participate in the program. The GOE
has made a number of statements recently that VWP could provide
another incentive for stateless Estonians to consider pursuing
naturalization as Estonian citizens.

6. (SBU) Your announcement of the VWP travel date, the
immediate availability of ESTA to Estonian citizens, as well as
soon-to-be-announced inclusion of Estonian as an available
language on the ESTA website, are anxiously awaited and will be
well-received. Questions received by the Embassy following the
President's announcement of VWP expansion on 17 October suggest
that the Estonian public is still confused about some aspects of
the program. It would be particularly helpful for you to
emphasize the following during any press interviews:

(1) that only Estonian citizens holding biometric passports are
eligible to travel visa free (i.e., only Estonian passports
issued after 22 May 2007),

(2) that ESTA requires substantially the same information as
required on Form I-94W, rather than the more substantial amount
of information required from visa applicants, and

(3) that those who already hold valid U.S. visas need not comply

TALLINN 00000363 002 OF 004


with ESTA and biometric passport requirements.

SCHENGEN

7. (SBU) Estonia joined the Schengen Area on December 21, 2007,
abolishing passport controls for intra-Schengen flights, as well
as land and maritime border control at ports of entry connecting
to other Area members (in this case land borders with Latvia,
and maritime connections with Finland and Sweden). The GOE
maintains a strict regime of checkpoints on its Eastern border
with Russia and has retained border checks at the airport for
travelers arriving from non-Schengen states. Estonia received
77 million Euros in Schengen Facility aid to improve
surveillance capacity on the Russian and sea borders, and to
integrate its entry-control and visa systems with the Schengen
Information System (SIS), a common lookout and records database.

WAR ON TERROR

8. (SBU) Estonia is a strong supporter of the U.S. position in
the War on Terror. Estonian troops participate in NATO
operations (in Afghanistan and Kosovo), EU operations (the EU's
Nordic Battle Group), Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq and
other missions (including the UN mission in Lebanon). A company
of 140 Estonian soldiers is deployed to the southern province of
Helmand (the epicenter of Afghanistan's opium production and a
stronghold for the Taliban). In Iraq, Estonian soldiers are
embedded with U.S. troops in some of the toughest counter-
insurgency operations outside of Baghdad. To date, five
Estonian soldiers have been killed, and 45 wounded, in Iraq and
Afghanistan. The GOE is on track to meet its NATO commitment of
devoting 2 percent of its GDP to defense spending by 2010
(currently at approximately 1.7 percent) and is a vocal
supporter of NATO enlargement, particularly in light of the
Russian invasion of Georgia.

REGIONAL DEMOCRACY PROMOTION

9. (U) Estonia's experience of transforming itself from a
Soviet-occupied country into a healthy democracy with a strong
economy has given it immense credibility in promoting democracy
and transformational diplomacy in the region. The GOE has
provided training in law enforcement, judicial reform, freedom
of the press, democracy building, economic and market reforms
and IT to civil servants and military personnel from the
Balkans, Georgia, Moldova and the Ukraine.

RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA

10. (SBU) Estonia's relationship with Russia is difficult and
complicated following nearly 50 years of Soviet occupation, and
has become even more so following Russia's invasion of Georgia
in August. Estonia has strongly supported Georgia's reform
process. Senior GOE officials travel regularly to Georgia and
about one-third of Estonia's bilateral assistance budget is
spent in this country. Former Prime Minister Mart Laar serves
as a personal advisor to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili
on political and economic reform. Shortly following the Russian
invasion, Estonian President Ilves and Foreign Minister Paet
made high-profile visits to Georgia to show their solidarity
with the Georgian government and people. Estonians view the
Russian invasion of Georgia with alarm, given the large number
of Russian citizens and ethnic Russians living in Estonia, and
are keenly looking to the security guarantees of Article V of
NATO.

11. (SBU) While Russia and Estonia continue to share trade and
investment ties, they have not been able to conclude a border
treaty. Depending on the political climate and bureaucratic
inefficiencies, hundreds of trucks crossing from Estonia into
Russia may encounter delays of up to one week. Estonia's
decision to relocate a Soviet era monument (the Bronze Soldier)
was followed by riots of ethnic Russians in Tallinn in April
2007. Following the riots, Russia put heavy economic and
diplomatic pressure on Estonia - including refusing to disperse
a mob outside the Estonian Embassy in Moscow for several days,
limiting rail and truck traffic across the border and
encouraging a boycott of Estonian goods. Rail traffic (oil,
coal, wood and other materials) is still down significantly,
reducing Estonia's transit revenues and complicating supply
lines for Estonian companies.

12. (SBU) Ethnic Russians make up approximately 25 percent of

TALLINN 00000363 003 OF 004


the population of Estonia. Some ethnic Russians hold Estonian
passports, while others hold either Russian passports or "gray"
(stateless) passports issued by the Estonian government. Russia
has frequently complained about GOE treatment of its Russian
speaking minority. However, until the Bronze Soldier riots,
Estonia's efforts to integrate its minority population were
viewed as a model for the region. While Estonia can still point
to significant accomplishments of its integration strategy, the
riots revealed that deep fissures remain between ethnic Russians
and Estonians living in Estonia. The GOE, which has
traditionally engaged in language-based integration programs,
has launched a new strategy that focuses not only on language
and citizenship issues, but also on society building and
cultural understanding among Estonians of all ethnicities.

CYBER WARFARE

13. (SBU) In April/May 2007 (following the Bronze Soldier
riots), cyber attacks targeted government and private sector
websites in Estonia. The attacks, which lasted for
approximately one month and ranged from simple spam postings to
coordinated DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks, caused
severe service disruptions to websites, servers and routers
linked to government, banking, media and other resources. These
highly coordinated cyber attacks captured widespread
international media attention. The United States and NATO
quickly sent experts to Tallinn. Since the attacks, the GOE has
taken a leadership role on cyber security within NATO, the
European Union (EU) and other organizations, becoming an
important player in international cooperation on cyber defense.
Estonia sent advisers to Georgia following a cyber attacks that
coincided with Russia's invasion of that country. The GOE is
working with NATO to make its national Cooperative Cyber Defense
Center (CCD) a NATO Center of Excellence (COE). In November,
2007, the United States was the first country to send a
representative to the CCD, although we are not an official
"Sponsoring Nation" yet.

ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE

14. (U) Until recently, Estonia's economy was growing at 7-11
percent per year. This year, however, economic growth has
slowed to almost zero. The state budget has been in surplus
since 2001, but falling tax receipts have translated into
painful budget and personnel cuts for the GOE. So far, the
Estonian banking sector, which is controlled by Scandinavian
banks, has weathered the global financial crisis well. The
national currency, the Kroon, is pegged to the Euro, but
inflation will keep Estonia from joining the Euro zone before
2012.

15. (SBU) The United States is the eighth-largest foreign
direct investor; U.S. direct investment accounts for less than
2.5 percent of total FDI. Estonia is known internationally for
its highly developed IT sector and widespread use of technology
in government and daily life. Internet usage in Estonia is over
60 percent, and online banking is upwards of 80 percent - both
the highest in Europe. Cabinet ministers work on the basis of
e-government and Estonia was the first country in the world to
offer e-voting in a nationwide election. Large domestic oil
shale reserves have allowed Estonia to remain relatively
independent of Russian energy supplies, although Estonia imports
all of the natural gas it uses from Russia.

MEDIA ENVIRONMENT

16. (U) The Estonian media have shown considerable interest in
Estonia's progress towards joining the Visa Waiver Program
(VWP). Reports are typically neutral and reasonably well-
informed but some outlets have been critical and/or confused
about the new security requirements and ESTA. In addition to
Embassy outreach on VWP, the GOE has remained on message and
extremely knowledgeable in public statements about the mechanics
of VWP, including ESTA.

17. (SBU) The media in Estonia are ranked among the most free
in the world. The 2008 Reporters Without Borders press freedom
index ranked Estonia as the fourth most free country.
Competition and variety among print, television, radio, and
Internet sources is robust in both Estonian- and Russian-
language formats. Media resources in Estonia are limited and
coverage is generally restricted to local and regional issues
and to international issues that have a direct bearing on

TALLINN 00000363 004 OF 004


Estonia. Television is the most popular source of news in
Estonia, but newspapers still play an important role in
providing serious news as well as in-depth commentary. Internet
penetration is very high, particularly among young Estonians,
although much of the content is repeated from the more
traditional media outlets. Tabloid-style papers are very
popular, and while they often adhere to a lower standard of
journalism, they do provide a reasonable level of reporting on
serious news. One area of concern is that television and radio
broadcasts originating in Russia are a leading source of news
for many of Estonia's Russian-language speakers, particularly in
northeastern Estonia, where Russian-origin television broadcasts
can be picked up by antenna. The Estonian Government is
considering expanding the amount of Russian-language television
programming available to Estonia's Russian-language speakers in
order to offer more balanced and neutral news coverage.

18. (U) Your visit will be a highlight for the whole year.
Again, I welcome you to Estonia, and look forward to seeing you
in Tallinn on October 29.

PHILLIPS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO: