Estonia's NATO ambassador: Russia must soon decide which path to take

Jüri Luik.
Jüri Luik. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Moscow must decide whether to pursue military conflict or continue with diplomatic debate in the near future, Estonian Ambassador to NATO Jüri Luik (Isamaa) said on Wednesday after the meeting of the NATO-Russia Council.

Speaking to ERR after the meeting, Luik said both delegations outlined their points of view.

The Russian delegation had prepared thoroughly but it has not yet worked out its future steps, he said, adding Russia must make a decision in the near future as forces cannot be kept at Ukraine's border indefinitely.

"In the near future, [President Vladimir] Putin will have to make a clear and radical decision on whether to go for military conflict or to continue with a peaceful diplomatic debate. It is difficult to predict exactly what decision he will make at the moment," the former minister of defense said.

"On the other hand, NATO nations were very clear in their demands that Russia de-escalate immediately. And the United States, as it said bilaterally at the Geneva meeting, was very clear and unequivocal in the NATO Council. In that sense, Putin now has a choice."

NATO had not set conditions for further talks with Russia, such as removing troops from Ukraine's border.

"At the same time, it is clear that dialogue cannot be in any way fruitful in a situation where troops are there. Putin will still have to make that choice in the near future. I believe that next week we will probably be much wiser on what path Putin is going to take." he added.

A NATO flag at Estonia's Ämari Airbase. Source: Ardi Hallismaa

Luik said it was made clear at the meeting that NATO will not abandon its "open door policy", which allows any country to try and join the alliance, or that Georgia or Ukraine would be blocked from doing so.

"NATO will not give its consent for Eastern Europeans to become second-class NATO members. So Russia's fundamental demands in these two famous draft treaties were all rejected," the ambassador said. "We are not going to back down and Russia must acknowledge this."

Asked whether Estonia should be concerned about its security, Luik said it is always worth worrying about, but there is no military threat to Estonia at the moment because NATO membership guarantees it.

Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet (Reform) and Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) have said discussions are ongoing to increase NATO's presence in the Baltic region. On Monday, Denmark agreed to send additional fighter planes to Lithuania and a frigate with 160 crew members to patrol the Baltic sea.

Russia will hold three meetings this week, the first two with the U.S.A and NATO allies have already taken place. The third, with the OSCE, will take place today.

In recent months, Russia, as moved approximately 100,000 troops to its eastern border with Ukraine. Some experts believe a further invasion will take place this spring.

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


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Editor: Helen Wright

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