Estonian Ministry of Defence: Military cooperation off table until Russia takes troops out of Ukraine (11)
Responding to an invitation from the Russian Ministry of Defence to meet for consultations regarding potential military cooperation, the Estonian Ministry of Defence has taken the stance that military cooperation with Russia may be taken into consideration only if and when the latter complies with NATO's demands to end the occupation of Crimea, take their troops out of Ukraine and stop supporting separatists.
The Estonian defense attache in Russia received a proposal from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation to meet for consultations regarding possible military cooperation.
"The proposal can be considered a followup to the NATO-Russia council held on July 13 wherein Russia proposed cooperation with NATO," Artur Jugaste, deputy director of the Estonian Ministry of Defence's Strategic Communications Department, told ERR's online news portal. "In order to restore military cooperation with NATO, Russia must fulfill the requirements posed upon them by NATO: to cease the occupation of Crimea, to take their troops out of Ukraine and to cease supporting separatists."
According to Jugaste, the Estonan defense ministry's official stance on Russia's cooperation proposal is that they "will consider this proposal in depth, consult with allies and develop a position within a reasonable amount of time."
The Estonian Ministry of Defence has indicated that Estonia is certainly interested in Russia observing international confidence and security measures such as the Vienna Document, the Open Skies Treaty as well as the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty).
"These oblige Russia, among other things, to inform us of their exercises and of personnel and equipment participating in these exercises as well as to invite international observers to these exercises," explained the communications director. "All of these measures will help increase transparency and prevent possible incidents in our region."
According to Chairman of the National Defence Committee of the Riigikogu Marko Mihkelson, Russia's defense ministry's invitation to meet to discuss security matters must be viewed with caution, especially as pertains to cooperation in Syria.
"Of course it should be in all of our best interests if this is Russia's sincere interest in mitigating tensions and there can't be anything against that," Mihkelson told ERR's radio news on Tuesday. "But concerning Syria, in that regard I would be very careful. Estonia's position shouldbe very clear. Cooperation with Russia in Syria is very difficult to imagine. In any case, caution should be exercised when Russia attempts to draw boundaries in order to control its geographical interests."
The Russian Ministry of Defence has invited representatives of NATO member states to Moscow in September. In addition to member states such as Poland; Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the invitation was also extended to NATO non-members Finland and Sweden.