Estonia marks capital success

Never one to worry much about the risk of patronising smaller nations, the US called it a "graduation ceremony". It had just administered another spanking to the bad boy of the planet, Saddam Hussein. Now, hundreds of miles to the north, it was time to honour its unlikely star pupil - Estonia.

Thus it was that a cluster of senior US and Estonian officials gathered within the 15th-century town hall in Tallinn, the capital, to mark the country's passage to capitalist, Western, adulthood.

Two years after the last Russian soldier left its soil, Estonia was the first post-Soviet nation to begin to be weaned from Washington's foreign aid, US diplomats said. The days of dependency were drawing to a close. Estonia did not need it; it was an "economic miracle", a shining example of the free market at work.

America's enthusiasm for her protege is predictable enough. Over the centuries, Danes, Germans and Russians have sought to manipulate (and often occupy) this small nation, perched usefully at the mouth of the Gulf of Finland.

Yet few would dispute America's point: Estonia's turn-around has been remarkable. Decades of Soviet occupation left its 1.6 million population with a crumbling infrastructure and clapped-out industries. But while Russia's economy is still in the doldrums, its northern neighbour - seized by Stalin in 1944 - is thriving only five years after it regained independence.

Estonia is also turning its back on its former masters. Trade with Russia has plummeted from 90 to 20 per cent. These days, there are more flights from Tallinn to Amsterdam than there are to Moscow.

The uneasy relationship between Tallinn and Moscow has been marred by suspicions that the Kremlin is undermining Estonia's efforts to enter the European Community and Nato. Western diplomats believe Russia has embarked on a campaign of misinformation, which includes exaggerated claims that Estonia is abusing its 350,000 ethnic Russians.

Such tactics may have dented Estonia's diplomacy, but they have not hurt business."The numbers tell the story," said Thomas Dine, of the US Agency for International Development, which organised the "graduation" to mark the conclusion of its $30m (pounds 20m) aid programme.

For three years, Estonia has had average growth of 5 per cent; 65 per cent of its gross national product comes from the private sector; monthly inflation is down to less than 2 per cent. It has a stable and fully convertible currency - the kroon, pegged to the German mark.

There is, of course, a downside. The scent of money has attracted the Russian mafia. So while US aid is winding down, a new relationship is being born. The FBI is planning to open an office in Tallinn soon.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue