Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Opinion
Leonid Bershidsky

Estonia Did Its Post-Soviet Homework

Estonia's president says his country has been more responsible than Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union, which is why it's now more secure.
Sacrifice yesterday, security today.

Sacrifice yesterday, security today.

Photographer: RAIGO PAJULA/AFP/Getty Images

There aren't many European leaders who take a harder line on Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggression in Ukraine than his Estonian counterpart, Toomas Hendrik Ilves. His sympathy for Ukraine, however, is tempered by a belief that it didn't do enough in advance to protect itself. His own country, he suggests, has been more responsible, which is why it will be more secure.

Ilves, who grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Columbia University, speaks English with a perfect American accent. (Locals say his Estonian is worse.) If our conversation weren't taking place in the modest Tallinn mansion that houses the presidential office, and if Ilves weren't wearing his trademark bow tie, it would be easy to take him for a U.S. administration official -- one particularly indignant about Putin's disregard for post-World War II international rules (and, by extension, his disrespect for post-Cold War American hegemony).