Expert: West taking Estonia more seriously on security than ever before

Estonian Foreign Policy Institute director Kristi Raik.
Estonian Foreign Policy Institute director Kristi Raik.

In the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Estonia is now being listened to by western allies more seriously than ever before, and the country has more influence on security issues than at any time in the past, according to one security expert.

At the same time, Russia is unlikely to concede defeat any time soon, while war weariness has already set in in western countries, including those in the EU and NATO, Kristi Raik Foreign Policy Institute (Välispoliitika Instituut) director, said.

Appearing on  "Uudis +", a politics talk show on ERR's Vikerraadio, Raik said that whereas: "In the past, the Baltic states were still in a rather marginal position, though perhaps a little less so after 2014," referring to the year in which Russia annexed Crimea, formerly Ukrainian territory, and the separatist war in easternmost regions of Ukraine began – a conflict which saw the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 civilian airliner down, with the loss of 298 lives.

"However, as of today that has changed," Raik said,.

"Western states are now acknowledging that these warnings about Russia from the Baltic States and their attitudes towards Russia were justified," she continued.

"Now, they are ready to listen to the proposals of the Baltic states, who are now being taken seriously. Obviously the fact that Estonia has a prime minister who can communicate and present these proposals in the form that will be heard contributes to this," Raik continued, speaking the day after Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) attended the NATO summit in Brussels, as well as a European Commission meeting on the security crisis.

Raik said that discussions have also begun in the West about how the attitude of the EU and NATO towards Russia should evolve accordingly.

She said: "It is important to make this change lasting, meaning that there is no quick fix to this conflict that would allow us to return to normalcy."

Raik said that the West now recognizes that, over the long term, ridding Europe of energy dependence on Russia is needed and is something which the EU is working on.

As to the ongoing war, Raik added that the prospect of Russian forces making use of chemical weapons is taken seriously, evidenced by support promised to Ukraine and stepped-up preparedness on the part of NATO.

However, more is needed here too, she said.

Noting that statements such as: "If you continue with your aggression, it will have painful consequences for you," had not been effective in curbing Vladimir Putin, so far.

"I am afraid that the same logic will continue to apply to the possible use of chemical weapons," she said, adding that both the EU and NATO were more reactive than proactive.

War fatigue in the West also seemed to be setting in, just at a time when more was needed than the sanctions so far imposed on Russia, and the weapons so far supplied to Ukraine.

This made it unlikely a truce would solve anything, she added, while sacrificing a part of Ukraine to Russia as a way of placating that country would have the opposite effect, in the long run, to resolving Russia's demands – which would then start to fall on NATO itself.

This was, again, felt strongly in the Baltic States, Raik said.

She said: "I do find and feel that Russia's neighbors feel that we have to pay what is needed to ensure Ukraine's sovereignty today and tomorrow, as if not, we will pay much more for our security in the years, and perhaps even decades, to come."

As an example, Raik cited the Minsk agreements of 2014-2015, which attempted to resolve the Donbas conflict but which did not satisfy either side and was followed not by an abandonment on its goals on the part of Russia, but rather a doubling down in pursuing them.

Ultimately, "I do not see that Russia will soon be ready to admit any defeat," Raik said.

The Foreign Policy Institute is part of the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS).


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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