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Defense minister: Estonia and NATO closely following Russian Zapad exercise

Jüri Luik.
Jüri Luik. Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

In a short interview with ERR, Minister of Defence Jüri Luik (IRL) on Thursday said though provocations on the part of the Russian military were a possibility during its Zapad exercises, but that they were ready for them.

ERR: Are there certain provocations to be expected from the Zapad 2017 exercises?

Luik: Estonia’s position is calm and secure, there is no particular reason for worry. We as well as our NATO allies are following the exercises attentively. The exercises don’t markedly increase the danger level in our area, but incidents at sea as well as in the air aren’t impossible.

Is Estonia ready for potential incidents?

We’re ready for all possible scenarios. In addition to the British battalion battle group and the french company in it there are a American and a Hungarian company present during that time as well. NATO has increased its presence in the other Baltic states and Poland as well.

Do you know anything about the exercise scenarios and their size? Has the ministry had an invitation to observe the exercises?

Like previous exercises of the same kind and range, this one is also based on an attack scenario against NATO. It’s a large exercise with an estimated 100,000 Russian personnel and officers participating. Belarus promised to invite us to observe the exercises, but not Russia. We’d expect much greater transparency from Russia.

What is different compared with earlier Zapad exercises?

There are clearly similarities with the 2009 and 2013 Zapad exercises, but the present one is taking place in a new security environment, after Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, and connected with great tensions with the West.

How can the Russian claim be dealt with that NATO poses a direct military threat to Russia?

Russia’s attempts to vilify NATO are nothing new, but they don’t base on facts. In reality it is Russia that is behaving aggressively, as anyone can see at the example of Georgia and Ukraine. NATO’s presence in our region is extremely modest compared to the forces on the other side of the border, but has a positive influence, as it’s the best guarantee of peace.

The interview was done by ERR’s Aleksander Krjukov.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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