Estonia's NATO ambassador: Russia's demands being dealt with calmly

Russian flag outside the embassy in Tallinn.
Russian flag outside the embassy in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

NATO is calmly dealing with Russia's demands and the country has further damaged its "already very bad" reputation with its recent actions, Estonia's ambassador to NATO Jüri Luik (Isamaa) said on Monday.

Last week, Russia issued a series of demands to the U.S. that NATO roll back its presence on its Eastern flank and, including in the Baltics, and rule out Georgia or Ukraine joining the alliance in the future.

Speaking on ETV's weekly current affairs show "Välisilm", Luik, a former defense minister, said: "I must say that this is still being taken quite calmly here in NATO, and there is no one who thinks that the Russian projects could be the basis for any kind of negotiation. On the contrary, Russia has dealt a final blow to its already very bad image."

He said the situation is further complicated as NATO is dealing with several crises at once. These include Ukraine, Belarus and Russia's information attack on NATO.

Jüri Luik. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

"In this situation, we must remain calm, protect Estonia's interests, maintain the unity of NATO. But I must say that Russia has done everything in its power not to use the diplomatic solutions that NATO has offered it," Luik said.

"Every day, Russia's deputy foreign ministers verbally attack NATO," he said.

Luik said the organization is watching the movements around Ukraine with extraordinary attention.

Russia may start conflict to "save face"

Former Estonian diplomat Harri Tiido said it is possible Russian President Vladimir Putin will create a conflict in Ukraine to save his reputation in resolving the conflict with NATO. 

Tiido said Russia deliberately submitted an ultimatum with unacceptable conditions. 

"Now the question is whether Putin has backed himself into a corner, if there is an answer that he cannot accept - or because he may lose his reputation domestically - consequently, something needs to be done. There is a dangerous position," he told "Välisilm".

Harri Tiido Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Tiido said it is possible for Russia to resolve the situation with a limited military solution but: "They have to create a situation that allows them to withdraw their demands."

The former ambassador to Finland said Moscow has been preparing for this for a long time. For example, by maintaining an autonomous Internet in case they are cut off from the global network, setting up an alternative to the SWIFT international payment system and the amount of U.S. dollars in reserves has been reduced.

State gas company Gazprom has been reducing gas sent to Europe since the summer, he said, and the media is ramping up war rhetoric.

"It is possible that this matter is limited to some kind of local conflict, some solution may be reached. But I find it hard to imagine Putin simply giving up because saving one's face is especially important," Tiido said.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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