Ligi: No alternative to collective defense, U.S. not replaceable
In an interview with French news channel France 24, outgoing Minister of Foreign Affairs Jürgen Ligi (Reform) said that Trump had been right saying that Europe needed to invest more in its defense. The U.S. were not replaceable, and concentrating on individual countries’ self-defense counterproductive.
Ligi mentioned the territories of Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine that were still occupied by Russia, pointing out that the West had been too quick to forget about them. The expectation that everybody seemed to have in the 1990s that every country would now be headed for liberal democracy, that hadn’t happened, Ligi pointed out.
Estonia's advantage is that it is a NATO and European Union member
Asked about the possibility of seeing a course change with the new government taking over, Ligi said that the Center Party had been saying “things that are unacceptable for Estonia” for a long time, and that those things would be seen as scandalous in Europe as well. Still, the new government would respect Estonia’s interests, and its commitment to international organizations.
Along with reports in the foreign press about Estonia’s new supposedly pro-Russian government, there have been similar reports about pro-Russian presidents elected in Bulgaria and Moldova. Asked what this meant for security in the Region, Ligi said that luckily, these presidents didn’t have the kind of power it would take to turn things around.
As for pro-Russian governments, those were more dangerous, and in a democracy it was often too easy to lose the instincts needed to understand that Russia was a threat to security in Europe, Ligi said. It had been manipulating elections in other countries, and funding parties.
Russia had also been aggressive in its behavior. Ligi pointed to the frequent and large-scale military exercises in the neighborhood of the European Union, very close to its borders, and to its violation of the airspace of EU member countries. Russia exercised its forces for the case of a nuclear war, and had moved tactical divisions closer to the border, Ligi said.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that Russia had also occupied territories, Ligi added. Crimea had been annexed, East Ukraine was occupied. It made a great difference whether or not a country in Russia’s sphere of influence was a NATO or EU member, and those whose territories were occupied by Russia had been too slow with reforms and with their integration with the West to have made it to that point, Ligi said.
While Russian minorities in those areas gave Russia an excuse to move in, and use its approach of hybrid warfare as well, Estonia was a less obvious target, as the local Russians weren’t interested in joining. Their living conditions in Estonia were too good. Beyond that, there was NATO’s deterrent, of which Ligi gave an overview.
No alternative to collective defense
Asked about then president-elect Donald Trump’s statement that he thought the United States should help those allies that meet NATO’s defense spending requirements, Ligi agreed and pointed out that Estonia was spending the agreed minimum, and on top of that was investing in its facilities to host allied troops, which is why the government had increased defense spending even more.
Europe should do more, Ligi said. The idea that individual defense could replace collective defense was counterproductive, the United States was not replaceable. Europe shouldn’t disconnect itself from the United States, but on the contrary cooperate more closely with it, Ligi added.
The interview also discussed other issues, including the migration crisis and the change of government in Estonia. Ligi referred to the Reform Party’s junior coalition partners, SDE and IRL, as “losers” that had been doing everything to make the work of the government more difficult, and eventually broke it up.
Watch the interview in full: