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The President of the Republic at the Celebration of the 81st Anniversary of the Tartu Peace Treaty in the ''Estonia'' Concert Hall on February 2, 2001

Mr. Prime Minister,
Mr. Admiral,
Generals, officers and non-commissioned officers!
Ladies and gentlemen!

Today 81 years ago, the Tartu Peace Treaty was concluded between the Republic of Estonia and Soviet Russia. The Treaty ended the War of Liberty that had lasted for nearly a year and a half, and where Estonia had lost 3,588 men, whereas nearly 14,000 had been injured, but gained her independence.

What does this signify? It signifies the beginning of democratic breakthrough in the world, the end of which we still cannot see today. It meant defending and enactment of the right of self-determination defined by the US President Woodrow Wilson, in the situation where it was not in the interests of the former colonial powers. It signified Estonia's self-reliance, above all, it signified Estonia's victory over Estonia's own servility.

Estonia assumed great responsibility before the world, being the first to recognise Soviet Russia. And vice versa - Soviet Russia undertook for ever and ever to recognise the Republic of Estonia as an independent subject of international law.

This was the beginning of Estonia's legal continuity, which, at the time of the disintegration of the Soviet Union, guided our country back to the democratic world and restored our diplomatic, economic, and security policy ties, and above all, our mental ties with that world where we have belonged even at the hardest of times.

It was not a smooth beginning 81 years ago. Let us not forget that besides the War of Liberty, the Tartu Peace Treaty also ended World War I, six years of exhausting warfare for the people and the economy of Estonia. The Republic of Estonia was poor, distressed, and starving, and above all, alone. The military aid from the countries of the Entente had not been meant for the creation of the Republic of Estonia. It had been intended for the restoration of Russia as an empire, or at least for the restoration of Russia as an ally. With the exception of Finland, no one but the people of Estonia fought for the birth of the Republic of Estonia. The right of self-determination, of which the United States of America were once born, seemed a utopia for a region so small, so unknown, so insignificant - and still confidently calling itself the Republic of Estonia.

What does this tell us today?

First of all, it tells us of the resolve of a people who victoriously realised the dream to be a master in its own country. The Manifesto of Independence, the War of Liberty and the Tartu Peace Treaty are not mistakes of history that have borne fruit owing to several coincidences. On the contrary, the will of the people was the force that succeeded in making use of all those coincidences in order to found an independent country that has, through the ages, been the content and the goal of Estonia's history. The Päevaleht (Daily Paper) of the time was quite prophetic in its comments on the peace treaty, considering that Soviet Russia was not a democracy. I quote: ''We are not dealing with an ordinary adversary. As the enemy could not break us with arms, it will certainly try to find a ''peaceful'' way to do it. And the question to be asked is which of the two weapons will have more power in its hands.''

Today, we must admit with bitterness that the newspaper was right - let us recall the attempted terrorist coup in 1924 or the temporary occupation of Estonia in 1940. Nevertheless, we have not gathered in this hall today to recall the history of the past, but to shape the history of the future.

The events of 1924 and 1940 will not recur. The world, the Russian Federation and we ourselves have changed too much. Estonia has an active foreign policy that has ensured correct relations with all our neighbouring countries. Foreign policy is our common task, but here and now, today, standing before you, I would like to stress it specially: the readiness of Estonian Defence Forces for the defence of Estonia and for international co-operation with the defence forces of other countries to ensure peace is one of the most important guarantees of Estonia's security.

In the administration of Estonian defence forces and in the service in Estonian defence forces we must not be satisfied with mediocre results. I have repeated for some times earlier, and will repeat again today that we do not have much time. What does it mean? It means that we will not have time for another try, or a fresh start. Every man and woman, every officer and every conscript must keep this in mind. Time is precious, and always running short for a small country.

In the past ten years, the Republic of Estonia has proved to herself and the world that we are capable to function as a state. But which is the capability of our armed forces to defend the country today? It is pointless to revel in the rumble of pompous phrases. Our defence forces have made commendable progress, but I know - and you know even better - how much faster this progress could have been. Beware of mediocrity!

In the development of our national defence, we have reached the time when we must begin to fulfil our promises to our partners: there is no point in ranting that we still lack some concept or another - they must finally be worked out! I know this means hard work - but this is not an excuse for leaving things undone.

When we look into the future, there is not too much time, considering Estonia's goal to accede to the North Atlantic Alliance. Next year, decisions will be made whether new members are to be accepted to the Alliance, and who the new members will be. On our part, real deeds today are the best chance to influence these decisions. We do not have the possibility to postpone them to tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. We cannot have any other goal besides the highest grade.

And finally. The goal of the development of Estonian defence forces is more than membership in NATO. Estonian defence forces cannot be developed outside NATO standards. Meeting these standards means the capability to co-operate with the defence forces of other countries. Our strength or weakness is contained in our capability or incapability of co-operation.

Ladies and gentlemen! Dear friends!

We have done a lot, and we still have a lot to do. When facing hardships, let us think of our fathers and grandfathers, of our colleagues in the past, who fought for this country to be ours and secured it with the Tartu Peace Treaty.

Thank you!


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