Terras: Russia demonstrating wish to control Baltic Sea area
According to the chief of staff of the Estonian Defence Forces, Lt. Gen. Riho Terras, Russia’s recent actions show the country’s wish to expand its control of the Baltic Sea.
“In the long term Russia’s wish is to bring the Baltic Sea and the passages leading to it more and more under its control, and to control it much like it does the Black Sea,” Terras said to ERR on Friday.
Thursday and Friday’s airspace violations in Finland and Estonia as well as moving the Iskander-M missile system to Kaliningrad was a message to NATO, Terras said.
What is currently going on in Terras’ assessment is closely connected with Russian president Vladimir Putin’s recent statements. Terras finds Russia’s behaviour in the Baltic Sea area provocative.
Asked if the current Russian actions in the area could be related to the fact that Friday is also Putin’s birthday, Terras said he couldn’t answer that. He did conform though that the military had observed very dense air traffic in the area.
Asked by ERR’s Estonian news portal if he could confirm, Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso (SDE) said on Friday afternoon that they had their own channels to answer such questions. “But it’s certainly true that we have reason to keep our eyes open in the air, on the water, and everywhere else,” Hanso said.
Asked if the airspace violations that occurred in Finland and Estonia on Thursday and Friday could be connected to Russia’s move, Hanso said that this possibility couldn’t be excluded.
Mihkelson: Russia attempting to blackmal Western powers
Chairman of the Riigikogu’s National Defence Committee, Marko Mihkelson (IRL), said to ERR’s Estonian news portal on Friday that to his knowledge, Russia hadn’t actually stationed the Iskander system in Kaliningrad earlier.
As the transport of the system was now taking place with the help of a civilian vessel, he had reason to think that Russia tried to take the missiles to Kaliningrad in secret.
Mihkelson added that what was going on was part of a broader security situation, and that it was Russia’s intent to provoke Western governments and increase pressure on them. Just on Monday this week Russia had demonstratively cancelled its weapon-grade plutonium disposition agreement, Mihkelson pointed out.
Russia by its own decision was no longer part of Europe’s conventional weapons agreement, which according to Mihkelson hints at the fact that Russia no longer wants to cooperate, but play with Western powers’ nerves instead.
“In any case, what is called for now is to remain calm, and to treat these incidents as attempted blackmail,” Mihkelson said. “Russia is simply showing its desire to reinforce its position at the entrance to the Baltic Sea.”