Estonian defense minister: Russia's demands are unacceptable

Heads of state reception at Kadriorg Art Museum in Tallinn.
Heads of state reception at Kadriorg Art Museum in Tallinn. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Russia's demands that NATO not station troops or armaments in Estonia and eastern flank countries without Russian consent are "completely unacceptable", Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet (Reform) said on Friday.

"Russia's demands to NATO are completely unacceptable!" Laanet wrote on social media. "The implementation of any measure put forward by the Russian Federation would be catastrophic for European security."

Laanet said the clear escalating party today is the Russian Federation, whose troops continue to move close to Ukraine's borders.

On Friday, Russia submitted a list of demands to the U.S.A which said no troops or armaments should be deployed to any country which joined NATO after 1997 without its consent. This means all the countries on NATO's eastern border.

Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined Nato in 1999 while Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined in 2004.

Additionally, Russia said in its demand that NATO should not conduct military activities in Ukraine, Eastern Europe, the Southern Caucasus and Central Asia.

Moscow also wants to prevent the deployment of medium- and short-range missiles in areas where the targets of "other parties" could be attacked.

Russia is calling for the annulment of NATO's 2008 decision to allow Ukraine and Georgia to someday become members of the alliance.

Paet: Demands are "absurd"

Urmas Paet MEP (Reform). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Estonian MEP Urmas Paet (Reform) said, from the Western point of view, there is no room for negotiations in Russia's demands.

"It is absurd in our view," he told ETV's "Ringvaade" program on Friday evening. "We should not go into details at all, which is what Russia wants to achieve and has achieved in part. The countries of the European Union must be very principled in these matters."

He said many countries do not want a conflict with Russia over a third country, which is why they do not want to offer military assistance to Ukraine.

"Russia is playing on that," the former foreign minister said.

Russia has been massing tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine's eastern border for several months and some analysts believe an attack is likely early next year.

Reinsalu: Demands are a "new Yalta agreement"

Urmas Reinsalu. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) also commented on the development on Friday calling it a "new Yalta agreement" to divide Europe.

He called for Estonia to raise the issue at the United Nations Security Council in the coming days and for more allied troops to be brought to the region.

"Russia's demand is clear: it demands the conclusion of a new Yalta agreement, which would effectively leave not only Ukraine but also the Baltic states and Poland in Russia's s sphere of influence," he said, according to newspaper Eesti Päevaleht.

He said Russia's demand to consent to deployments in the region is "inconceivable".

"This means that if Russia attacks Estonia, the allies should only come to the rescue under Article 5 with Russia's permission! Russia is no longer making any secret of its imperial agenda," he said.

The Yalta Conference was held between the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union to discuss the postwar reorganization of Germany and Europe in 1945.

Nordic, Baltic defense ministers: Russia is the biggest military threat

Nordic and Baltic defense ministers held an online meeting on Friday and agreed Russia remains Europe's biggest military threat.

The ministers agreed that the conditions set by the Russian Federation could not be accepted under any circumstances.

"It is extremely important that the picture of the situation of our region, as well as that of all our allies, is coherent and that cooperation is strong, which is why we will discuss the situation in different formats today and in the coming days," Kalle Laanet said.

The meeting of Nordic and Baltic defense ministers was attended by Finland, Estonia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Latvia, Lithuania and Iceland.

On Saturday, representatives of the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian parliaments' Foreign Affairs Committees will meet in Estonia to discuss regional security.

NATO presence in the Baltic states

British soldiers at Tapa Military base. Source: Karl Jakob Toplaan/

While all three Baltic states are members of NATO, there have been additional deployments in the region since 2017 which is known as the "Enhanced Forward Presence" (eFP).

There are four multinational battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. They form part of the biggest reinforcement of NATO's collective defense in a generation.

These groups, led by the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and the United States are "combat-ready, demonstrating the strength of the transatlantic bond", NATO says.

The eFP was deployed after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. "Their presence makes clear that an attack on one Ally will be considered an attack on the whole Alliance," NATO says.

Map of NATO forces in the Baltics. Source: NATO

Additionally, NATO Air Policing missions are operational in Estonia and Lithuania. They aim to preserve the security of the alliance's airspace from Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania and Ämari Air Base in Estonia (since 2014).

NATO member countries with air policing capabilities voluntarily contribute to the mission in the Baltic states and rotate every four months. There is also an "enhanced" presence in the Baltics and Poland.

It is common for Russia to fly military aircraft through Baltic airspace without warning.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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