The Times newspaper reports that Russian President Putin has threatened to use nuclear force to scare NATO from defending the Baltic states.
The daily claims that according to notes made by an American intelligence official at a secret meeting between Russian generals and US officials in Germany last month, Moscow threatened a “spectrum of responses from nuclear to non-military” if NATO moved more forces into Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The meeting took place to solve the stand-off in Ukraine, but Russians used it to threaten NATO about the Baltics as well.
According to The Times, the Russian delegation had passed a message that if NATO sent arms to Ukraine it would be seen as further encroachment by NATO to the Russian border and the Russian people would demand a forceful response, and added that the same conditions that existed in Ukraine and caused Russia to take action there, existed in the three Baltic states, which have large ethnically Russian populations.
The report says that Russia would not use troops in the Baltic states, but stir civil unrest among the local Russian minorities. Cyberattack is also a possibility.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have become acutely aware of Russia's military threat ever since the start of Ukraine crisis and annexation of Crimea. Russia's actions in both cases indicated that Kremlin is not using conventional methods anymore, but rather different tactics in what has become to be known as hybrid warfare.
In Estonia's case, Narva has been in the spotlight since the Ukraine crisis started, both internally and externally. Located by the Estonia-Russia border and home for mainly Estonian Russian-speaking population, it is theoretically seen as a potential hotbed for Kremlin-initiated provocation. However, Estonian authorities have so far played down the fears, pointing out that unlike in Ukraine, the wage disparity and living standards are in Estonia's advantage, compared to Russia. Ethnic Russians in Narva are simply happier living in Estonia than across the border.
Nevertheless, all three Baltic states have started to take their security and defense very seriously in the face of Russia's aggression, inviting NATO to set up bases and increasing military expenditure.
Editor: S. Tambur