Russia is currently stirring the pot and is not only aiming at Ukraine, but is trying to reshape the entirety of European security architecture and essentially wants to destroy NATO, Riigikogu foreign affairs committee chair Marko Mihkelson (Reform) said.
"Russia has significantly changed its rhetoric - we are no longer talking of Ukraine and its future in the context of Russia, but rather what Russian wants to achieve. It wants to achieve full veto power in the entire European security space. It wants to destroy NATO, in essence," Mihkelson said on ETV's interview show "Esimene stuudio" on Wednesday evening.
He said that Russia has increased tensions over the last few days after U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin's conversation. Russia likely gave U.S. Assistant Secretary Karen Donfried a specific package of demands with security guarantees, which Russia wants to receive from NATO countries.
"Coming back to the phone call between Putin and Biden, I feel like there could have been rather serious threats from Russia's side. What has taken place since then has not changed the situation: Russia is continuing to amass troops on Ukrainian borders, there are an estimated 60 tactical battalions there, meaning the number of troops has doubled from what it has traditionally been since 2014," Mihkelson noted.
The foreign policy expert said Joe Biden's idea of initiating a conversation between major NATO allies and Russia shows that the matter is not the most important one for the current U.S. administration.
"China is certainly the more important question. It is possible that issues regarding the Iranian nuclear deal, for example, are more important as well. And internal policies, too - let's not forget that these are quite complicated times in terms of U.S. internal politics. And foreign policy is not something that speaks to voters," Mihkelson said.
A two-speed NATO is impossible
The Riigikogu foreign affairs committee chairman emphasized that Estonia has nothing to fear in terms of something taking place without the country knowing. "A two-speed NATO is impossible. It would mean death for the organization, because just like president Biden told our president, NATO article 5 is concrete, the obligations for the U.S. to ensure security in NATO are persistent and secure," Mihkelson said.
He noted that if NATO were to meet Russia's demands - NATO not expanding to the east, Ukraine remaining within Russia's sphere of influence, as would Georgia, Belarus and other former parts of the Russian Empire - it would raise questions about us feeding that aggression and possible meeting an even more serious conflict than the one in Ukraine currently.
Mihkelson said western unity is key. "It is very important for the U.S. and European allies to not get into conflict over matters of trust like what happened for Afghanistan - exiting Afghanistan caused problems, such as AUKUS and the submarine deal signed between Australia and the UK."
"We must not undermine trust, we must create it. And we should do it in a way that if we were to act more powerfully, even against Russia, there is hope that Russia would not extend the war in Ukraine," Mihkelson said.
The Riigikogu committee chair said that instead of promising to place more troops on NATO's eastern wing if Russia were to extend its operations in Ukraine, the U.S. should already strengthen its presence, also in Baltic countries.
"And that is something we are working towards, that there would be U.S. presence for deterrence in the Baltic states," Mihkelson said.
Still, the people of Estonia can sleep tightly, since the country is a member of NATO. "In spite of everything, we have great influence as a member of NATO on how we should behave and we are listened to," Mihkelson added.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste