Between the Russian threat and a wave of inflation, Estonia’s resistance

Between the Russian threat and a wave of inflation, Estonia’s resistance

Demonstration in support of the Ukrainian people on Freedom Square in Tallinn, Estonia, two days after the Russian offensive, February 26, 2022. Demonstration in support of the Ukrainian people in Freedom Square, Tallinn, Estonia, two days after the Russian offensive, February 26, 2022. ALESSANDRO RAMPAZZO/ANADOLU AGENCY VIA AFP

What is the best container to prepare a Molotov cocktail? A bottle of champagne or wine? Is it better to have more resistant glass or on the contrary one that breaks easily? Discussion at the end of the meeting of the Estonian Defense Volunteers Organization is going well. The 25 or so women of all ages gathered on the first floor of this cozy restaurant in Viimsi, a suburb of the capital Tallinn, have just spent two hours working out their evacuation plan in case Russian troops invade their country.

Killu Maidla has already scanned his entire family’s passports. In an emergency, his eldest son is instructed to take the car with his two brothers and sister to cross the border towards Latvia in the south. She also learned to cook for a hundred people in the wilderness should an escape into the forest prove necessary. Her friend hid wads of banknotes at home to take with her in case of emergencies. And everyone wants to learn how to make Molotov cocktails. In Estonia, the entry of Russian troops into Ukraine came as a shock. “If the Russians win (in Ukraine), who knows which country will be next?” asks Külli Määr, one of the participants. The territory that the Russians took from Ukraine in the first three days of the invasion is larger than our entire country. »

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Estonia, population 1.2 million, and the surface of Switzerland, the northernmost of the three Baltic countries, have been shaking since February 24. Independent since 1991 and occupied by the Soviet Union since 1940, it has been doing everything in its power to sever ties with its large Russian neighbor for the past thirty years. It has been a member of the European Union and NATO since 2004 and a member of the euro zone since 2011. Economically, too, it avoids a market with 140 million inhabitants on its doorstep: only 2% of its exports go to Russia.

“The Price of Freedom”

In this charming residential suburb, people take the war with a grain of salt. But in addition to the political echoes, the economic consequences are hard to feel. Inflation hit 20% in May, a rate that seems more coming from an emerging market than from a member of the single European currency. In one year, electricity bills have increased by 150%, gas bills have tripled, gas bills have increased by 40%. Everything is on fire: Real estate is up 63%, food is up 17%. “But that’s only a small price,” replies Ms. Määr. France and Germany are too attached to their convenience, while there is an urgent need to stop buying gas and oil from Russia. “That’s the price of freedom,” adds another woman from this advocacy group.

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