A grain exports Black Sea corridor from Ukraine, under Russia's direction, and the shutting down of the Nord Stream gas pipeline, form part of the Kremlin's message to the world that its demands must be taken into account, on the ground that a lot still hinges on the Russian Federation, Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) says.
Appearing on ETV foreign affairs show "Välisilm" Monday, the foreign minister said that this approach is used to influence western nations in making their decisions, even in the face of reports of a lack of military success for Russia in the Ukraine conflict.
Reinsalu cited the example of the grain corridor agreement signed in July, and the situation with the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe's largest, which, Reinsalu said, Russia is using to try to scare the EU with the specter of a potential nuclear accident.
"Plus there is now Monday's news that if sanctions are not lifted, natural gas will be used as a weapon. This is all designed to break the unity of the western countries. /.../ Russia should not be underestimated. They use means of influence, under the consideration that these will have consequences," said the foreign minister.
Russia has been circulating myths in order to influence the decisions of western countries, Reinsalu said, for instance via the insinuation that a serious famine could be expected if grain exports are sanctioned.
"Another myth that is being attempted is that Europe can escape high inflation and high energy prices if it achieves compliance with Russia," the minister said.
Last week's meeting of European foreign ministers failed to reach a common ban on Russian tourists traveling to the EU, a policy which Estonia and other member states bordering the Russian Federation have been pursuing.
At the same time, Reinsalu said, there was a change in the psychological paradigm to be observed at the meeting, which he attended. Representatives admitted that the mass movement of Russian tourists into Europe is a problem, while a desire of the eastern flank countries to impose an entry ban on Russian tourists at their borders was seen as completely legitimate, even as it has not been installed yet.
Reinsalu noted that the reasoning for the countries that spoke out against the ban the rationale that the current conflict is Putin's war, and a simple Russian tourist should be able to enter the EU as: "Then they will be able to see more of Europe, not be so hawkish, and learn something from Europe".
This was naive, Reinsalu said, though there are also more pragmatic aspects to such talk, relating to the realities of economic and business ties with Russia, even now.
The minister said. "The issue for several countries is that Russia might also close the entrance to their country as a countermeasure [to a ban on Russian tourists], and this would be a very painful step for a large number of employees and sub-contractors from European countries, in terms of business interests."
Reinsalu noted that although Ukrainian troops are currently on the counter-offensive, not much has changed in terms of territory exchange compared with April, when Russian troops were pulled out of the northern part of Ukraine.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming
Source: 'Välisilm' interview with Johannes Tralla.