Defense minister: Putin invite to Estonia not affecting security situation
The issue of the attendance of Russian President Vladimir Putin at an event in Tartu in summer should not alter fundamentally Estonia's security situation, according to Minister of Defence Jüri Luik (Isamaa).
"President Putin has been invited to Tartu, but I think that this, whether it takes place or not, is of no fundamental importance to long-term security policy," Luik said, according to ERR's online news in Estonian, quoting an interview the minister gave to defense and security magazine Sõdur.
"Unfortunately, general trends will not be broken, at least as long as Russia does not change its actions towards its neighbors," Luik continued.
President Kersti Kaljulaid sent an invitation to the Russian president in October to attend the VIII World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples taking place Tartu this summer.
No response has yet been received from Putin on whether or not he will be coming.
Luik noted Estonia's security policy is still based on membership of the EU and NATO, but bilateral and multilateral relations are also increasingly being taking into account, he said.
One example of the latter Luik gave was the U.S. large-scale military exercise Defender, which will bring tens of thousands of U.S. troops to Europe but which is not a NATO exercise.
"A Cold War model is being used for the rapid deployment of U.S. troops to Europe. Troops are being deployed to all three Baltic States, including Estonia," Luik added.
Luik also commented on French President Emmanuel Macron's comments that NATO was brain-dead, noting the term was not a good one.
"At this point, I would also say to the French - our French allies - that if they started bringing their own topics to the NATO table, this would in itself help to prevent NATO from being brain-dead," Luik said, adding that he would like more NATO council political debates.
Macron made the comments in an interview with U.K. weekly the Economist in November, in the context of U.S. President Donald Trump pulling out U.S. troops being withdrawn from counter-terrorism operations northern Syria in September.
Luik also commented on the increasingly warmer relationship between Turkey and Russia and how this affects intra-NATO relations.
According to the minister, Russia is hostile country NATO and cooperation between it and Turkey, which is a NATO member, should be very clearly limited.
"Regarding the purchase of Russian military equipment (Turkey has purchased S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems from Russia - ed.), we think it would be wise to purchase such equipment from its allies," Luik went on.
When questioned about the most significant likely Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) procurements in the near future, Luik mentioned South Korean-made K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers, as well as possible maritime procurements.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte