Jüri Luik: Putin afraid to repeat Gorbachev's path

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Jüri Luik. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Estonia's former foreign and defense minister, current Riigikogu Foreign Affairs Committee deputy chair Jüri Luik believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin has picked difficult relations with the West over his regime wavering.

"Putin's regime is largely based on anti-Western sentiment where Russia is portrayed as a fortress defended by a great commander," Luik said in a longer interview to ERR that News will bring to readers over the weekend.

Luik believes that the last President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev serves as a serious warning for Putin as his domestic and foreign policy reforms aided the collapse of the country in 1991.

"I believe that Gorbachev's legacy matters to Putin – he saw that even modest democratic reforms or pro-West sentiment can weaken the regime at home, while it completely brought it down in the case of Gorbachev," Luik said.

Asked what is the best way to talk to Russia that has amassed 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, Luik emphasized the word "resolve." Maintaining resolve in international relations to make sure the Kremlin would not launch a new military intervention in Ukraine, as well as regarding sanctions.

He agreed that the West refusing to buy gas and oil from Russia would be a very strong move. "Something like that could definitely affect the Kremlin's conduct."

"It is another matter whether the West is prepared to take such a step. It does not seem to be the case today. Germany is not prepared to drop the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project in which case we are still talking about a pipeline and not gas itself," Luik said. "Such a dramatic step could only be taken under extraordinary circumstances; for example, in the case of a conflict between NATO and Russia. No one has even threatened anything of the sort today."

While Luik is sure Estonia would support Ukraine asking NATO for a membership action plan (MAP)…

"The worst thing would be the alliance falling out as a result of this matter. That would mean that a) Ukraine would be denied MAP and b) the alliance would demonstrate being split, in other words, weakened support for Ukraine," Luik said.

He said it is very important to gauge what the West could realistically do versus the things arguing over which would create unnecessary tension.

Ukraine will not be able to secure a NATO accession roadmap?

"It will be difficult at the least. But never say never in diplomacy. Therefore, we cannot rule out that consensus regarding MAP will be found as one possible deterrent. But it does not exist today," Luik admitted, adding that Ukraine needs close cooperation with NATO, including more extensive weapons aid.

The interview with Jüri Luik can be read on ERR News over the weekend.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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