Ilves Champions Larger NATO Presence In Region (10)
President Toomas Hendrik Ilves appeared on CNN Tuesday, addressing the changing security situation in Europe given recent events in Ukraine, and advocating for more NATO units in northeastern Europe.
"A physical presence on the ground is something we need in the region," Ilves told interviewer Christiane Amanpour. "We need more exercises, and we think the decision to increase the number of planes providing air policing in the region is a very good one, but given the uncertainty we see to the east, and the actions we've seen in the east, we need to make sure that others understand that this is something that you don't play around with.
"We're in new territory now - the rules have been broken," he said. "The assumptions that the Helsinki final act of non-interference in other countries' internal affairs by military means, annexing territory - these are all out of a playbook that we last saw before World War II. So that makes it actually makes it more difficult to guess what is in one or another person's mind. Because we find it so unfathomable, because we have all consigned this behavior into the past. And now it's here with us this very moment."
Ilves predicted that Russia will face an economic backlash for its actions in Ukraine, which has already begun.
"Loans are not being rolled over, access to Western funds are increasingly limited, the European Union, at the next meeting of the heads of state and government, will probably extend the list of sanctions and sanctioned individuals," he said. "We'll probably see the quality of life, at least for the elite, [...] deteriorate."
Ilves said there has to be a serious rethinking of what is meant by security in the trans-Atlantic space, given recent developments which have been unacceptable form of international behavior. He said calls for federalization referendums in Estonia would not work.
"It's very hard to think of people giving up their euros for rubles, which is plummeting in value, or their right to live and work anywhere in Europe, which is accorded to everyone in Estonia, or having to apply for visas to visit Europe. It just doesn't make sense. And our opinion polls show that those views have essentially no traction."
Video clips from the interview here.