Security expert Meelis Oidsalu said that Estonia and the region is looking at a relatively difficult summer as Finland's likely NATO accession could result in pressure from Russia and the security crisis escalating closer to Estonia.
"Finland will join NATO, and we can expect Russia to exert pressure on NATO allies, including Estonia or Finland. In any case, we need to be prepared for the crisis escalating also in our region," Oidsalu told the "Terevisioon" morning show when commenting on the war in Ukraine and potential wider effects.
This pressure can be either military or non-military in nature. The latter could get gruesome in the form of sabotage, explosions at military installations. Missiles strikes would fall under military measures, while simply threatening air strikes is a trick from the hybrid warfare playbook. It is enough to spark panic and harm security," Oidsalu said. All manner of cyberwarfare and other measures could also be employed.
"We have seen little of the latter so far, and I'm sure the Russians have escalation plans drawn up. Putin's surprises tend to come from where we least expect them. He is in the habit of doing things we deem unthinkable."
Commenting on the situation in Ukraine, Oidsalu said that besieged Mariupol falling to the Russians is a matter of time. "The city has been surrounded. Every surrounded object will run out of resources eventually. Soon, the brave soldiers who are still there will have nothing with which to defend themselves. Unfortunately, we can say that Mariupol is falling. It is a matter of days," Oidsalu said.
He said that the biggest change in Russia's approach concerns leadership after they put a single general in charge of the operation. Every front used to fight its own war so to speak. But the general now in charge Aleksander Dvornikov (nicknamed the Butcher of Aleppo) and his units have been active in Donbas for some time. He was also the one who bombed Grozny. "The change also suggests the Russians now see this war as continuing for some time. It could happen that [ERR correspondent] Astrid Kannel will still be sending in reports from Ukraine come fall," the security expert suggested.
"Dvornikov being put in charge might mean we will see new Mariupols once the original one falls," Oidsalu said, giving the example of Kharkiv that has come under heavy bombardment. "These tragedies will happen again."
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy is also prepared for a long war, while he will retain pressure [on the West] to secure Ukraine an outlook, the expert suggested. He added that the Ukrainians have so far learned that the West is slow to change its attitudes and stance.
If we want to ensure some kind of longer-term stability in the European region, Ukraine's EU and NATO outlook needs to become a serious topic, also in the conditions of a hot conflict there, Oidsalu suggested. "Finland and Sweden will join NATO, which is great also for our security, while the truth of the matter is that it means nothing for Ukraine. The civilians dying there gain nothing from knowing that Finland and Sweden will join NATO. Giving Ukraine political and strategic perspectives should be put on the agenda as the West has not demonstrated preparedness to intervene militarily."
Editor: Marcus Turovski