Defense Minister Sven Mikser said Russia's decision to move some of its Belarus-based fighter aircraft close to the Lithuanian border was "no surprise."
"This has been on the radar for defense policy planners all this time and it is not much of a surprise for us," Mikser said on ERR radio about the step, reported in Postimees today, to move at least one 24-strong regiment of Sukhoi SU-27SM3 planes to Baranovich and Lida airfields 35 km from the border.
Mikser said that Russia had been interested in modernizing its military and increasing reaction time for years, but that a new aspect seen in recent months was that the political administration - Putin - was prepared to use the heightened capabilities against Russia's neighbors.
"Still, it wouldn't be wise to be too alarmist. Even though Russia's defense budget has increased each year and it has achieved certain success in modernizing its forces, NATO is still collectively the more militarily powerful organization," Mikser said.
Mikser: Pulling Out of African Mission Month Early Not the Right Response to Mistral Deal
He also commented on calls - mainly from parts of society unrepresented in parliament - that Estonia should pull its troops from the France-led Central African Republic (CAR) mission because of France's refusal to walk away from an arms deal with Russia.
Mikser said that, in meetings with French diplomats and officials, he had reiterated the position that the sale of the Mistral vessels to Russia would be harmful to security in the region as well as others, calling it "unacceptable."
"France is aware of our positions," he said. "But the connection to the operations in the CAR is not one-to-one."
Pressed as to whether it would nonetheless not be effective PR and fodder for international headlines if Estonia very publicly pulled out of the EU mission, Mikser said: "If your sweetheart cheats on you, you can kick your partner out. But there's no reason to throw out the dog that your girlfriend once gave to you out of your home as well. I believe Estonia must stick to its international obligation right to its conclusion," he said, adding that he himself had been relatively skeptical about launching the mission.
The CAR mission winds up in late August.