This decision shows a lack of respect for the historic importance and symbolism of the New York City consulate to Estonians abroad and in the USA. The existence of the New York consulate symbolized legitimacy and continuity of the Republic of Estonia during the Soviet occupation and beyond.
The USA is the biggest supporter of Estonia financially and for security. Estonian Americans lobby both houses of the U.S. Congress in order to develop valuable contacts and ask for support. Personal citizen diplomacy builds awareness and knowledge of Estonian and Baltic issues. Closing 2/3 of Estonia’s diplomatic presence in the USA sends a dramatic and negative signal to the world in this time of wars – the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Middle East conflict since Russia continues to be a threat to us all. The Soviet Union did not manage to pressure the New York consulate’s closure but now Estonia is doing this itself. This action will reduce the in-country human resources available to help and develop business diplomacy. There has been constant contact between the consulates and citizen diplomats to find and develop possible business relationships. The closings will result in the reduction of available high-level diplomats whose prestige is of tremendous value as speakers in local Estonian and American engagements. This is very discouraging to us and could hurt Estonian American support for Estonia. The message that we hear is “develop business for us, send us millions in U.S. aid” and forget why we American Estonians are doing this in the first place.
The “emotional” reaction issue (as expressed by the Foreign Minister)
If we, the American Estonians, did not have the “emotional attachment“ for our Estonian heritage and the welfare of Estonia in today’s world, we could all disappear and totally assimilate into the American melting pot culture – a very easy thing to do. We would not have spent years and hours of time doing volunteer work in the various societies and clubs to help try and keep Estonia’s situation visible. Explaining this shortsighted decision to American friends and connections is very embarrassing. We have praised and promoted Estonia and its accomplishments, and thereby created respect, awareness, and goodwill which no country can dismiss. Unfortunately, this plan to close the consulates, which are part of our Estonian structure, sends a strong signal to us – the Estonian-Americans, that despite the talk of global Estonians being important etc, that you all do not value our contributions. Our financial help and citizen diplomacy needs the “emotional” factor to be successful.
Kristi Vuht Allpere
Atlanta Eesti Kultuuri Selts – president/esinaine
Eesti Rahvuskomittee Ühendriikides – board/juhatus
Ülemaailmne Eesti Kesknõukogu – delegaat/delegate from USA
ÜEKN – Suurpõgenemise’44 toimkond
Advisory Council of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra – Diversity Committee
October 8, 2023
Atlanta, GA, USA