Martin Hurt, the Deputy Director of Tallinn-based International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS), told ERR News that reports about Russian officials threatening to use nuclear weapons if NATO allies would deploy additional forces to the Baltic states, is in line with previous Kremlin statements and is aimed at scaring Western political leaders.
“First, it is aimed at scaring and paralyzing Western political leaders, many of whom were elected to their current positions primarily to fight unemployment and speed up economic growth – not to lead their nations in times of crisis or maybe even war against a revisionist nuclear power. The heads of state in Europe and America should now get mentally prepared for something worse to follow," Hurt said, commenting upon the report in The Times newspaper that Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to use nuclear force to scare NATO from defending the Baltic states.
In Hurt's opinion, if Russia does not want to see more NATO forces in the Baltic states, then the right thing to do is actually to deploy more allied forces to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to bring more stability to the region. "The Baltic states do not belong to Russia’s sphere of influence, they are members of NATO and the EU," Hurt emphasized.
Hurt also pointed out that Russian threat to use a spectrum of responses from nuclear to non-military if NATO moved more forces into Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, is an excellent example of how far Russia is ready to go in its exploitation of ethnic Russians.
"What the Kremlin says is that if other NATO allies would deploy forces to the countries where there are ethnic Russians, then Russia would nuke these nations. A logic conclusion is that the Kremlin regards ordinary Russians as cannon fodder - just like Soviet generals occasionally sent unarmed soldiers into battle against German troops in the Second World War, just like Russian officials have buried Russian soldiers in unmarked graves after they were killed in Ukraine, ethnic Russians living in the Baltics are now merely seen as an excuse to target these nations," Hurt said.
Emmet Tuohy, Research Fellow at ICDS, also said that while the report published in The Times is noteworthy for how blunt the Russian side's reported statements are, for Estonia this is nothing new or surprising.
"The government has already expected that Russia will use "other tools" besides direct military intervention, such as the "soft power" tactics, and has indeed already been working to increase its preparedness and ability to respond to a Crimea-like scenario in Estonia," Tuohy told ERR News.
Editor: S. Tambur