Professor Constantinos Adamides, thank you for agreeing to the interview.
Sure, my pleasure.
So, you have visited Tallinn University. What was the purpose of your visit and what were your impressions of the university and its professors?
The purpose of the visit was that it was an Erasmus trip. The whole idea was to meet with colleagues from Estonia and to focus on similar issues. I went with my PhD student Petros Petrikkos, and the idea was to do a series of interviews both at Tallinn University and TalTech, and also we met at the Foreign Policy Institute, the ICDS, so we met with a few people such as Professor Crandall and Kristi Raik. I went to the E-Governance Academy as well. We met with Mrs Kiirats there. They were all fantastic to be honest. We were very welcomed, they immediately put appointments for us, they spent time with us and they shared their knowledge. As a university obviously we (the University of Nicosia) have a lot to learn from them on issues of small states and cyber and things like that, and I think we have things to offer because we are a small state as well with different kinds of issues. The whole idea is both Estonia and Cyprus have an existential threat from a much bigger country, Russia in the case of Estonia and Turkey in the case of Cyprus, so there are commonalities as much as there are differences, so part of it was to talk about how they handle these existential threats, what do they do about it. This was actually the original discussion with Matthew Crandall, and that was a very interesting discussion.
What were your impressions about Estonia as a country? What did you think about the weather?
The weather? Well, it was one degree and it was September, if I’m not mistaken. It was 30-something degrees in Cyprus and one degree in Estonia, so my constant question to the people is what do you do for the rest of the year, and I was surprised that they said you get used to it. That’s something southerners like ourselves cannot really grasp so easily, but then I noticed the small things, how everything was tailored to accommodate this. As soon as you walked in you had a coat place because the assumption is that everybody has a coat that they would leave in the coat room. As you have noticed in Cyprus we don’t even bother, we don’t have coats basically. It’s mid-December and you’re still wearing a shirt and t-shirt. Yes, this could still be summer in Estonia.
It would still be summer, exactly. Because now it’s 18-19 degrees here, so you get the idea. What else can you say about Tallinn?
I like Tallinn. The historical aspect of Tallinn was very nice. I wish I had some more time. So yeah, it was very interesting, and I
also liked how they blended the older part with the newer part of the city. The university is architecturally speaking very new and very modern, but the city still maintains its old character. And the main street, I forget what it’s called, but the main street of Tallinn, that was lovely.
You are an associate professor of international relations. Therefore, I would like to ask what you think of the NATO Center for Cyber Security in Estonia. What do you think is the importance of it for NATO?
Unfortunately that’s the one place we wanted to go to and we didn’t get the chance, because it was kind of invitation only and we didn’t have the invitation. But its importance is unquestionable. It was established after the 2007 attacks in Estonia, and since then it’s a good example of how you can turn a crisis into an opportunity, and this is precisely what Estonia managed to do. To turn this crisis into an opportunity and not only create a center there in Estonia but also to make the country much more tailored towards that kind of security, and I think that center is a spearhead of how small countries can punch above their weight in different sectors of security, and Estonia can manage to do just that. And I’m not just talking about security, but more of societal security in the sense that they incorporated their online way of living into their lives from voting and from everything else, so having this kind of security is integral if the rest of the society relies on this kind of technology. You cannot have all this online way of living without having the security to support it, so I think this is a very important issue, both psychologically and tactically.
Right now there are major tensions in Eastern Europe, between Poland and Belarus and Between Russia and Ukraine. So what do you make of that, and what do you think will be the likely outcome of the current situation?
Well, it’s hard to be a prophet. You know, it’s very hard to know the outcome, but definitely not pleasant but not surprising either. This is something that should be expected. Russia’s modus operandi, this is how it destabilizes countries that are very closeby by utilizing a number of different methods, including immigration, and including of course leaders and regimes that are under its control, like Belarus for instance. So the question is how will the EU handle it, and I think the most important aspect is not to allow it to escalate beyond control. So right now we see some form of controlled escalation, so as long as it remains under control, things will inevitably slowly kind of de-escalate. However, things like that can easily get out of hand. I think the Belarus situation will continue to remain very grey and very problematic in the region, and the biggest problem that I foresee is that it will force leaders in EU countries neighboring in that area to become tougher and use tougher discourse and securitize issues, and we might see more leaders along like in Hungary for instance, leaders who will take much harder stance on these issues, on immigration, on the neighborhood and so on, which also means that it might bring the EU into an awkward position, to balance between these kind of leaders, and the EU overall policy towards these issues. So I think the biggest challenge is this, which is something that the Russians would love to see, these struggles within the EU and these destabilizing forces within the EU. So if you can not beat it from the outside, you can help it implode from the inside. This is the biggest challenge in my opinion.