While the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia are in Washington, DC to meet with President Obama to discuss economic cooperation and theTransatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, Estonian President Hendrik Ilves sat down with Atlantic Council Executive Vice President Damon Wilson for an exclusive interview on Estonia’s role in cyber security and its importance in the global context.
Via RIA Novosti:
The attacker was identified as one Karen Drambyan, 57, a member of the United Leftist Party of Estonia, a group with strong links to the country’s Russian community.
The Economist writes in an editorial that thanks to Poland, the NATO alliance will defend the Baltics:
When the war in Georgia highlighted NATO’s wobbliness on Russia, Poland accelerated its push for a bilateral security relationship with America, including the stationing of Patriot anti-missile rockets on Polish soil in return for hosting a missile-defence base… the Baltic states will get their plans, probably approved by NATO’s military side rather than its political wing. They will be presented as an annex to existing plans regarding Poland, but with an added regional dimension. That leaves room for Sweden and Finland (not members of the alliance but increasingly close to it) to take a role in the planning too. A big bilateral American exercise already planned for the Baltic this summer is likely to widen to include other countries.
Hat tip: Marius
Anne Applebaum, on how a problem with her car in Warsaw was transformed by Polish, Estonian and then British media into an international incident.
Hat tip: Marius
David J. Smith*
The French Navy amphibious assault ship Mistral—named for a cold French wind—visits Saint Petersburg today. This is not just a port call; it is a sales call—with ominous geopolitical implications.
“We plan to buy one Mistral class ship in France and with technical support from the French to build four helicopter carriers of this class under license,” said Vice Admiral Oleg Burtsev, First Deputy Chief of the Russian Navy Staff. It would be the biggest ever NATO country military supply to Russia.
The Mistral class of ships is designed to attack the shore from the sea, an ideal weapon for Russia to intimidate its neighbors. Mistrals can carry 16 heavy or 35 light helicopters, 4 landing craft, 900 soldiers and up to 70 military vehicles, including up to 40 tanks.
At about $800 million apiece, France’s motivation to sell Mistrals is understandable. Besides, sale proponents argue, a few modern ships to Russia’s barnacle-ridden navy will hardly threaten American dominance at sea.
However, is Paris prepared to reward Russian aggression against Georgia, ignore shredding of the ceasefire agreement negotiated and signed by President Nicolas Sarkozy, accept the help of Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan but enforce an unacknowledged arms embargo on Georgia, and meanwhile sell advanced arms to Russia? Does France really want Russia to have this littoral combat capability?
Ignoring these questions may evoke pleasant noises in Moscow for a time, but Russia will not reciprocate in any concrete way. Indeed, it will demand ever more to be appeased. And eventually Russia will employ the Mistrals in another act of aggression, thereby making France complicit.
Regrettably, the potential sale of Mistral class ships to Russia appears to spring from worse than unprincipled economics. France’s partnership with Russia, Prime Minister Francois Fillon recently said, “can take several forms in the defense sphere, from military cooperation to close industrial partnership.” Recall that Fillon a day before the April 2008 NATO Bucharest Summit, told France-Inter radio, “We are opposed to the entry of Georgia and Ukraine because we think it is not the right response to the balance of power in Europe and between Europe and Russia.”
It is difficult to imagine what power Fillon imagines France will balance with the sale of Mistrals to Russia. However, one can readily discern Russia’s motivation for the purchase.
Moscow will not soon challenge US Navy dominance of the oceans. The Russian Navy for the foreseeable future will be a green water navy, operating close to home, largely as a complement to Russian land forces. And those forces undergird Russia’s intent to halt NATO’s eastward enlargement, particularly to Georgia and Ukraine; to retain its Black Sea Fleet headquarters in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol beyond the 2017 expiration of its leasehold; to discourage NATO from planning and exercising the defense of the post Cold War NATO allies; to challenge American cooperation with those allies; and eventually to roll back what it characterizes as encroachment from the west.
“All that we consider ours will remain ours,” said Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, toasting the 80th birthday of well known Soviet and Russian foreign policy specialist Yevgeny Primakov. The Baltic Sea, once a Soviet lake, is no doubt one of the places that Putin had in mind. When the Mistral navigated Skagerrak and Kattegat, the straits that lead from the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea into the Baltic Sea, it steamed by the shores of united Germany; by Gdansk, catalyst to the upheavals that toppled the communist world that Putin so reveres; by Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, now NATO members, once occupied but never cowed by the Soviet Union.
On Baltic shores, apart from Saint Petersburg, only Kaliningrad—headquarters of the Baltic Fleet founded by Peter the Great—remains of the world for which Putin yearns. And it was no coincidence, therefore, that in Kaliningrad on September 28, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told Russian troops who had participated in the exercise Zapad 2009, “I am convinced that we will be able to reestablish our navy in the next decade…We need a strong navy.”
And the Mistrals are part of the plan. On inland seas such as the Baltic or the Black Sea, Mistral class ships would make a big difference—and the Russians know it. Referring to Russia’s August 2008 invasion of Georgia, Russian Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy recently remarked, “A ship like that would have allowed the Black Sea Fleet to accomplish its mission in 40 minutes, not 26 hours, which is how long it took us.”
Consequently, the Mistral’s call in Saint Petersburg must capture the attention of every NATO ally. The French sale of Mistral class ships to Russia would be a major adverse geopolitical development and a potential alliance buster—it must be stopped.
*David J. Smith is Director, Georgian Security Analysis Center, Tbilisi, and Senior Fellow, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, Washington.
As the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union approaches (August 23), some news stories:
First, Russia’s defence minister announces that most of the hijackers of the Arctic Sea were Estonians. This later becomes eight detainees, of whom four are claimed to be Estonians, two Latvians, and two Russians. The Estonian government issues a statement saying that it received no official notification of the arrest of Estonian nationals from the Russian government, as would be required by the agreement existing between the two countries. Estonia delivers a note to the Russian embassy in Tallinn, requesting clarification.
The Czech government expels two Russian diplomats for suspected espionage. Russia calls it an “unfriendly act”, and says it “will not promote development of normal relations between the two countries.”
Georgia officially leaves the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent State, or former Soviet Republics, led by Russia).
It now looks probable that the Russian government will ban Skype, along with other foreign Internet phone services. Skype, it will be recalled, was born in Estonia, though it’s now owned by eBay.
While it leaves little doubt as to the depth of the contempt and loathing felt by many Russian intellectuals for the West, and especially for Russia’s “near abroad” – in particular, the small Baltic state of Estonia, a recent interview with the Russian economist Mikhail Delyagin in the Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda reveals a strange and unsettling twilight zone, where humanity appears to fade and go out of the window altogether, becoming replaced by something else. The economist is asked by one of the interviewers about Russia’s plans: perhaps the tanks will go as they did in the 1930s, and be greeted with flowers?
For that , they [Estonians] need to stew in their crazy nationalism for another five to eight years. Secondly, our nation needs to heal itself. And thirdly, what do we need these insane farmers for? What would Russia do with [Estonian prime minister Andrus] Ansip? Show him at the zoo? But then there definitely might not be enough room for Saakashvili …
Marko Mihkelson writes (tr. by Leopoldo, my editing):
As I was leaving [the opening ceremony] at midnight on Monday an Estonian diplomat said to me: “Let’s see what the the Russian media will say about the victory monument to the war of independence. And as might have been feared, out came the story in all its propagandistic glory. To tell the truth, nothing else could have been expected from the official Russian television media (in this case ORT 1). The constant emphasizing of the SS-line, the Estonia-hating positions of Linter and Zarenkov, the manipulation of the Ganin assassination story.
Not a word, of course, about the War of Independence and its meaning in the history of the creation of the Estonian state. It just doesn’t fit into the script of the Kremlin’s “truth commission”. Only a few days ago one learned that the FSB had ordered a documentary film on “Ukraine’s fascism”, the purpose of which is the international discrediting of Ukraine’s authorities.
These news reports go to show that in the so-called “official” version the general stance on Estonia and Russia’s other neighbours has not changed. Nevertheless, at the same time there are also signs of a certain improvement in Estonian-Russian relations, which are not as emotional as those reflected in the Russian TV media.
Last night saw the formal opening of the Victory Monument on Tallinn’s Freedom Square. The monument commemorates Estonia’s victory in the Estonian War of Liberation – the defensive campaign of the Estonian Army and its allied White Russian Northwestern Army against the Soviet Western Front offensive and the Baltic German Landeswehr offensives in 1918–1920 in connection with the Russian Civil War.