Kaljurand: NATO’s exercises are defense drills, Russia rehearses attacks (4)

Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marina Kaljurand (Riigikogu)
7/9/2016 8:03 AM
Source: BNS
Category: News

Estonia needed NATO's help against Russia, and there was no sign that Russia would honor its international obligations or acknowledge its military role in Ukraine, Foreign Minister Marina Kaljurand (independent) wrote in an opinion piece published in the Washington Post on Thursday.

Kaljurand said ahead of the NATO summit in Warsaw that little had changed since the alliance’s meeting in Wales 2014, and that there was little hope that relations with Russia could improve.

"There is no sign that Russia will honor its international obligations or acknowledge its military role in Ukraine; in fact, the opposite is true. NATO must meet this challenge with resolve, strength and presence,” she wrote.

"The question of how to respond to increasing Russian aggression remains Estonia's top priority. The facts are stark: We have seen violations of our airspace and irregular flights and mysterious submarines in the Baltic Sea. The Russian navy and air force engage in confrontations with NATO forces patrolling the sea, thereby normalizing a mentality of war for their pilots and sailors – and for the Russian public, which consumes these facsimiles of war through state media.

"Estonia will remain open to productive dialogue with Russia, but we do not have any further obligation to indulge Russian insecurities when its actions have shown that doing so encourages only the worst behavior."

"Russia routinely holds military exercises, often unannounced or with little notice, simulating an attack on the Baltic states or our Nordic neighbors, often practicing to cut off the Baltics from the rest of NATO or otherwise challenge the Article 5 collective defense principle of the alliance."

According to Kaljurand, Russia will hold more than 2,000 military exercises this summer, some of which will be much larger in scale than NATO drills. "Before NATO confirmed the deployment of four new international battalions (up to 4,000 troops) to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, Russia announced that it will send three new divisions (30,000 men) to its western and southern borders," the minister observed.

"With all due respect to those who claim that NATO is 'warmongering' or 'provoking Russia' with our exercises, this is the reality: NATO drills prepare for the defense of our territory, our allies and our people in case of attack. Russia's drills are offensive, simulating the invasion of its neighbors, the destruction and seizure of critical military and economic infrastructure, and targeted nuclear strikes on NATO allies and partners," Kaljurand said.

"Estonia will remain open to productive dialogue with Russia, but we do not have any further obligation to indulge Russian insecurities when its actions have shown that doing so encourages only the worst behavior."

Kaljurand said Estonia hoped that the NATO battalions to be stationed in the Baltic States and Poland would be backed by pre-deployed equipment that could ensure a rapid response to any Russian challenge. "We will welcome the new NATO battalion to Estonia. We also hope there will be U.S. regular and Special Operations forces beside them – and beside us," she said.

"We also hope that the arrival of the new battalions will be accompanied by discussions about how to disrupt and respond to any Russian attempt to activate its anti-access/area denial capabilities and cut the Baltics off from the rest of NATO. This may require unconventional thinking on new responses to hybrid threats."

"A unified Europe with a strong American partnership is the only reason we have a choice at all about where our futures should be."

After the UK’s EU membership referendum, NATO should be revitalized as the common commitment between the United States, Canada, Britain, and Europe to transatlantic security, the minister said.

"Russia has been clear that it views transatlantic unity and a world order based on the values of representative liberal democracy as a threat to its national interests. It deploys money, promises, threats and pressure to find converts to its cause and to disrupt our decision-making.

"The parade that we have seen of former and current European leaders to Moscow calling for rapprochement – and tacitly agreeing to the dismantling of Europe – has been disheartening for those of us who understand that a unified Europe with a strong American partnership is the only reason we have a choice at all about where our futures should be.

"It is clear that the Russians will continue their aggressive behavior until they achieve their goal of breaking the Western alliance – and we must be similarly prepared for a long-term, steadfast defense of our independence and our values,” Kaljurand wrote.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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