Estonian analysts say Russia is basing its foreign policy on blunt force or "whataboutism" and is confident in the knowledge that the West will not oppose its actions.
Kaarel Kaas, editor-in-chief of the monthly Diplomaatia (Diplomacy) compared Sunday’s referendum in Crimea to the 1940 elections in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with codified the Soviet Union's takeover of the Baltic States. He said Ukraine has lost de-facto control over the peninsula, but may eventually regain it.
Speaking on ETV’s morning program today, Kaas quoted Bulgarian political analyst Ivan Krastev and said Russian President Vladimir Putin aims to crush the current international order.
“Russia has now set as its aim to not to be bothered by the opinions of the international community. It has generated a certain parallel world in which it operates, and Kremlin deliberately overrides all norms of international law,” Kaas said.
According to Kaas, military intervention is possible only if Russian troops enter eastern or central Ukraine, which cannot be ruled out at the moment.
Financial sanctions, on which the West is struggling to agree, will not stop Russia at the moment and would have an effect only in the long term, Kaas said.
Crimea is lost for the next few years, but not permanently.
“In the long term, as we know from history, no loss like this is irreversible. The Baltic states regained their freedom, and I think Ukraine will regain its territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Kaas said.
What is happening in Crimea is the most significant international crisis of the past 25 or even 50 years, and Russia’s actions have considerably changed the international environment, Kaas said.
Citing Krastev, Kaas said Putin aims to crush the current international order and he began working towards this aim already in 2008 with the war in Georgia, “to which the European Union sadly did not react adequately."
“His current behavior indicates that he no longer cares for any rules of the game that have been agreed on, not even formally following them to save face and preserve the facade. He acts according to the relatively simple rule - those who have the power, are in the right.”
Karmo Tüür, political scientist at the University of Tartu and an expert on Russia, told ERR radio today that Russian ambitions extend beyond Crimea.
“It is not certain that this is it, he said, referring to Crimea. "On the contrary - they have found an inner confidence again. Add to that the growing conviction that the West is keen to do something for its own interests but almost incapable of confronting Russia. It is to be feared that something else will happen."
Tüür said the strategy was to hold a small victorious Blitzkrieg to divert attention from domestic problems, and in that it has succeeded - Putin’s rating has skyrocketed.
While the Baltic states have been named by some observers in the West as the next possible target, Tüür said he considers it likely that Kazakhstan will be next.
Sanctions serve little purpose unless they are also applied to Putin personally, Tüür added.
He said that it was futile to rely on political science to predict Russia's next move, and that Russia's actions bordered on the pathological. He elaborated, saying that Russia resorted to whataboutism, pointing to failings of others to excuse its own transgressions.
“Russia is returning to the order of the world of the Cold War era. By saying that we are equal players to the U.S. and if they do this, we will do that,” he said.