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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own