Man Plans, and God Laughs

What you have just opened was initially planned as the printed special edition of Diplomaatia (the ICDS’s foreign- and security-policy magazine), to be given to you on 15 May at the opening of the 14th Lennart Meri Conference, entitled My Neighbour’s Problem Today – Mine Tomorrow.

The title, inspired by Horatius’ maxim, nam tua res agitur, paries cum proximus ardet (you too are in danger, when your neighbour’s house is on fire), contains a slight dash of prophecy. The conference initially aimed to focus on various aspects of isolationism in these times when local has become global and vice versa. Even if countries try to isolate themselves from global challenges, the problems find a way into their back yards anyway, so isn’t it more rational to take up arms against them together? The main theme of the conference was intended to raise awareness, but we were too late. Our neighbours’ dangers entered our domain before the conference had time to discuss them, and from an unforeseen direction.

What has Covid-19 taught us? Perhaps the first lesson to learn is about the fragility of the upper layer of solidarity, civilisation and common values in the face of a crisis that does not recognise borders. The basic instinct for us as nations is still from the perspective of Stone Age man, trying to save himself and find shelter, with no wider view. We saw this in the restrictions on medical deliveries within the EU, from Poland’s unannounced border closures, and from competition with each other for supplies; all these minor steps mark a significant erosion of the EU and its legacy. And yet we are united, and only in a coordinated way can we fight the malevolent aspect of globalisation: the pandemic.

There will be much to discuss during the conference, which will now take place on 14–16 May 2021. How will the EU, NATO and our common security system emerge from the crisis? Can the UN grasp the opportunity or will it fail to take the lead in tackling global crises? What sort of United States will we see after its presidential elections? How will Russia and China position themselves under new the circumstances?

I dearly hope that mankind can learn the lessons in a progressive way, won’t make decisions based on instincts, and won’t take a U-turn in the cycle of civilisation. The 2021 Lennart Meri Conference will do its best to help keep the discussion going, to analyse the situation and to promote new ideas and viewpoints. For now, the current virtual edition of Diplomaatia is a little appetiser and food for thought: Diplomaatia Lennart Meri Conference Special Edition May 2020

I’d like to end with the words of a young Ukrainian poet, Irena Pavliuk:

Travelling seas

As you keep your eyes open

Powers the intellect, powers the soul,

Having no fear of depth to be trodden,

Treating your country as part of the Whole.

The Estonian word for “sea” is Meri.

See you in Tallinn in May 2021. Until then, enjoy the reading!


Eeva Eek-Pajuste, Director of the Lennart Meri Conference at the International Centre for Defence and Security



Things That Mattered Before and Will Matter After Covid-19

Kersti Kaljulaid, President of Estonia and Patron of the Lennart Meri Conference

As the global community fights Covid-19, neither conventional nor unconventional security threats have disappeared from the radar. The same applies to the cyber domain. Technology is what helps us in this global crisis. And the multilateral world, including the UN, needs to keep up with the times, by supporting technological innovation globally. But in parallel this requires that the UN, including the Security Council, also deals with new challenges that pose a threat to international peace and security. 5 March 2020 marked the moment when cyber was, for the first time ever, officially discussed at the UNSC, at Estonia’s initiative. Continue reading


The European Response to the Covid-19 Virus

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission

The first instinct of Europe’s nations may have been to turn inwards, closing borders and hoarding supplies without much thought for coordination. But very quickly—with the help of the European Commission—the member states of the European Union have begun to pull together. We need to make use of all Europe’s potential to learn the lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic and move on in a constructive, democratically orientated and economically sustainable way, whether by drawing on a European recovery fund, ensuring the EU single market or reshaping cyber security and digital data protection. Continue reading


China in Europe: Facing Up to the Threat

Andrew A. Michta, Dean of the College of International and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the West is finally waking up to the reality that, after decades of unfettered access to our technology, research, educational institutions and market, the People’s Republic of China has become a threat to the post-Cold War liberal democratic order.  The United States—and increasingly its allies in Europe—are waking up to the fact that what was touted as “free trade” was nothing of the kind. It is time to revisit the fundamentals when it comes to the incompatibility of liberal democracy and communism, before it is too late.  Continue reading


Building the Post-pandemic World

Ambassador Kurt Volker, Senior International Advisor at BGR Group

Authoritarian regimes and top-down economies will act quickly to strengthen their global economic, political and security positions in the post-pandemic world. Democracies risk being insular, slow to recover, and slower still to think globally again. In the post-pandemic world, free societies need their own vision and strategy for the future and must band together quickly and decisively to advance a global order that preserves freedom. Continue reading


Andrey Kortunov: Cooperation with the West Will Only Happen If Russia Modernises

Russia can return to closer ties with the West only if some future Russian leadership sets itself the goal of serious social and economic modernisation of the country, says Andrey Kortunov in an interview with Diplomaatia magazine. The question is: how will Russia be able to adapt to the new socio-economic realities? Today’s situation is very convenient from the perspective of the traditional narrative maintained by Russia’s current leadership. But if we look towards the near future, the world will transition faster to a new technological platform, in terms of people moving to distance working, the decline of raw-materials-based economies and the prioritising of climate issues. Continue reading


In-Between versus Belonging, or Why Ukraine Matters

Hanna Shelest, Editor-in-Chief of Ukraine Analytica and Head of the Board of the NGO “Promotion of Intercultural Cooperation”

Ukraine is not in between Europe and Russia. Either EU member states recognise Ukraine as part of Europe or the confrontation will never end. A weakness of the EU states to accept Ukraine as an equal partner and a country of European destiny provides Russia with arguments and inspiration for continued provocation. Recognising Ukraine as a European country means not questioning its European perspective and membership aspirations. It means perceiving it not as a neighbour, an object of EU policy, but as a strategic partner. Continue reading


Japan’s Search for Order and Stability: Navigating Chinese-Japanese-US Triangular Relations

Sahashi Ryo, Associate Professor at the International Relations Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, University of Tokyo

What are the objectives of Japan’s diplomacy towards China and how should we explain the development of Japanese policy in recent years? It is indisputable that the alliance with the US remains crucial for Japan, but is Tokyo’s approach towards China consistent with US policy towards Beijing? This essay argues that the goal of Japan’s foreign policy has consistently been to maintain the regional order through stability and interdependence, and that the promotion of rules and norms, the Japan-US alliance, and diplomacy towards China have been identified as important means of achieving this goal. Continue reading


The Long-Awaited Death of Our Communication Naiveté. Again

Dmitri Teperik, Chief Executive of the ICDS

A deeper look into the social media groups of some Russian-speakers in the Baltics can be both thought-provokingly insightful and scarily illuminating. As the pandemic crisis has exposed gaps and weaknesses in our communication, governments should not hope for societal inertia. Continue reading


About the Lennart Meri Conference

“We can never have too much security,” said President Lennart Meri. To mark his continuing legacy in foreign and security policy thinking, the annual Lennart Meri Conference aims to encourage curiosity and debate, highlight unity and diversity, and foster liberty and democracy. Since 2007 it has assembled distinguished policymakers, analysts, politicians, military personnel and academia from around the globe in Tallinn, Estonia. The President of Estonia is the Patron of the conference.

Curious about what to expect? Click here to view photos from the Lennart Meri Conference 2019.

Four caricatures from an exhibition created by Rein Pakk and Rainer Sarnet exclusively for the Lennart Meri Conference 2019. Lennart Meri (1929-2006) was a leader armed with a number of weapons, humour being one of them, at times the sharpest and most powerful. In this exhibition you will find many of Meri’s famous quotes put into a present-day context.


The panel discussions at the Lennart Meri Conference are open to both invited guests and to accredited press. The official conference website and ICDS Facebook page will provide live streaming of panel discussions that are not under Chatham House Rule.

The breakfast and night owl sessions will be conducted under Chatham House Rule and access is granted to invited guests only.

Click here to find out more about the conference policy and practicalities.

More detailed information and the programme will be published shortly before the conference.