- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2001

Return to Tallin
Iceland Ambassador Jon Baldvin Hannibalsson remembers rejoicing in Estonia after the fall of communism 10 years ago.
Mr. Hannibalsson was Icelands foreign minister, and Iceland was pushing hard for the Western powers to recognize Estonia and the other two Baltic states that had suffered long under Soviet domination.
"The Soviet Union collapsed under its own unbearable weight of bureaucratic inertia," he told an audience this week in the Estonian capital, Tallin, where he delivered an address on the anniversary of the fall of communism.
"The old men in the Kremlin were unable to compete with the vastly superior societies based on individual freedom, the rule of law, democracy and free trade, domestically and internationally."
Mr. Hannibalsson added, "When the nomenclatura of a totalitarian state no longer has the stomach to resort to violence to enforce its will upon a restive population, the day of reckoning has arrived."
He recalled Estonian President Lennart Meri, who was foreign minister at the time, and a new cell phone he was using. Mr. Meri was thrilled that he could bypass a communication system that was still routed through Moscow where state security agents could easily eavesdrop.
Mr. Hannibalsson also noted that before he left Washington for Tallin, he saw a newspaper photograph of a group of young people sitting before laptop computers.
"The text explained that this was not a Silicon Valley start-up board meeting. This was the Estonian government conducting its normal business," he said.
"The photo signified that Estonia has arrived in the 21st century, embracing the revolution with calm confidence."
He also called for NATO to admit Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
"Leaving them out of the new comprehensive security system of Europe once again, in a gray zone or political no-mans land, waiting to be filled by a reborn imperial ambition of a new generation of nationalist leaders in Russia, is certainly not conducive to stability and peace in Europe in the future," he warned.

Vershbow to Russia
President Bushs new man in Moscow will be the same diplomat who told nine Central European countries that they are not qualified to join NATO.
Mr. Bush has chosen Alexander Vershbow to be ambassador to Russia, the Associated Press reported yesterday, citing a senior administration official.
Mr. Vershbow, now ambassador to NATO, is a career diplomat who is a Russia specialist and is fluent in the language. He is a former head of the Soviet desk at the National Security Council and at the State Department.
He also served as a special assistant for Russian and European affairs under former President Clinton.
The 48-year-old diplomat will replace Ambassador James Collins, who is retiring from the Foreign Service.
Mr. Vershbow, 48, told an audience at the National Defense University this week that the nine nations seeking to join NATO next year — Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia — "have a long way to go" before they would be qualified to enter the alliance.

South Asian head
President Bush yesterday selected a Republican Senate staffer to be assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs.
Christinia B. Rocca is currently a foreign policy adviser to Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican. She served as a staff operations officer for the CIAs Directorate of Operations from 1982 to 1997.

Baghdad shuffle
He was a familiar sight on American television during the Persian Gulf war. He was also one of the few Iraqis who did not look like Saddam Hussein.
Tareq Aziz, with gray hair and mustache instead of black like Saddams, was Iraqs foreign minister when President Bush recruited an international army to force Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait.
Saddam has consistently rewarded the loyal Mr. Aziz with positions of power. Yesterday, in addition to his duties as deputy prime minister, Mr. Aziz was named interim foreign minister to replace Mohammad Said Sahhaf, according to reports from Baghdad.

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