MOSCOW (Leonid Mlechin, member of the RIA Novosti Expert Council)
Russians think that Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians are arrogant, that their countries are malicious gnomes with an all-but-Nazi ideology, and that they hate Russia and treat Russian-speaking residents of their countries as second-class people. To be honest, Russians dislike the Balts for three reasons :
To start with, they were the first to leave the Soviet Union - how ungrateful !
Second, these pro-Western countries rushed into the EU and NATO - joined our enemies !
Third, they make claims on our territory or demand compensation for what they call "the Soviet occupation."
Discontent with the status of local Russians and other grievances are rooted in these causes. There are ex-Soviet countries where Russians are really having a hard time, but Moscow does not want to mess with dictatorships. It is much safer to lash out at the three Baltic democracies.
Our protests against SS veterans' rallies or SS monuments in the Baltics are also affected in many respects. In Russia, people freely march under overtly Nazi slogans, and Nazi literature is sold in the open, but society does not worry too much about this.
Moscow's traditionally high-handed attitude to small European countries and its habit of resolving all issues only with its big partners - America, Germany or France - is a source of rightful irritation in the Baltic nations. Russian policy towards them is hardly dexterous. What has our diplomacy done to build new relations with them ? Incidentally, when transport links with Kaliningrad turned into a big problem, Moscow desperately needed good relations with Lithuania, but there were none to be had.