The former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said in an interview with British daily The Indpendent that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “obsessed with the idea of testing NATO” and had ridiculed the Baltic countries' defense.
Saakashvili, who served as the third President of Georgia from 2004-2013 and now works as the Governor of Ukraine's Odessa Oblast, recalled times when he was still on friendly terms with Putin, approximately five years before Russia's intervention led to a war between Russia and Georgia in 2008, first of many recent wake-up calls about Russian aggression.
“Putin does not respect national borders and he will push everywhere,” he said, reminding how he predicted in 2008 that after Georgia, Ukraine would be next, followed by the Baltics.
“There is no way that they will not go to the Baltics next. There is no way that they will not revisit Georgia or Azerbaijan. Putin is obsessed with the idea of testing NATO – this was clear in my long conversations with him,” Saakashvili said.
According to Saakashvili, Putin had told him three major things in their private conversations.
“One, we will make Georgia like Northern Cyprus. The second was that Ukraine was not a country but a territory. And the third thing was that the Baltic countries were not defendable. He said all these things, until we were no longer on talking terms,” Saakashvili recalled for The Independent.
“Putin asked whether Lithuanian president Adamkus (Valdas Adamkus was President of Lithuania from 1998 to 2003 and again from 2004 to 2009) really thought two or three scrap metal planes from NATO could defend him,” Saakashvili remembered, recounting also Russian president’s next remark: “We are laughing at this equipment. Does he really think NATO will fight for the Balts?”
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined NATO in 2004 and since the Russian Federation's annexation of Crimea and war in Ukraine, NATO has for the first time brought in troops to three countries. Ämari airfield in Estonia became the base for four allied fighter jets as part of Baltic Air Policing mission, in addition to four planes in Lithuania.
Editor: S. Tambur