Defense minister: Russia targeting Western unity, military threat remains

Jüri Luik speaking at the 2019 Lennart Meri Conference.
Jüri Luik speaking at the 2019 Lennart Meri Conference. Source: Twitter

Estonian Minister of Defence Jüri Luik (Isamaa) said at the Lennart Meri Conference last weekend that Russia's tools in its attempt to break up Western unity are not limited to the dissemination of false information, or to cyberattacks, and that the threat of military conflict still remains.

To understand what steps Russia might take next, it is necessary to look at the country's actions in the past, Luik pointed out.

The hybrid approaches used by Russia in recent years cannot be allowed to obfuscate the fact that significant parts of Ukraine and also Georgia remain annexed and occupied, the minister added. The continuing military conflict in Ukraine, along with Russia's recent efforts to develop its military capabilities, clearly show that there is no desire to stop, Luik said.

"Over the past few years, Russia has multiplied its funding of the development and modernization of its armaments, with Moscow paying particular attention to the digitization of weapon systems, and the development of a new generation of weapons," Luik stressed.

This development is visible along the Estonian-Russian border as well, the minister went on: an example is the increased size of the Russian air assault division stationed in Pskov, as mentioned also by the Internal Security Service (ISS/Kapo) in its yearbook for 2018. This shows that military development directed towards the West is a priority, and that preparations for possible military hostilities are underway, Luik said.

Luik also stressed that there is a treatment against Russia's expansionist aims, and that this treatment is the unity of the Western world. It is precisely this unity that has become a target of Russia, since any discord among Western countries is seen as an advantage.

"Doubting the fundamental principles on which the European Union and NATO have agreed is not a smart thing to do," Luik said. "We all understand that the current situation in the West is much more complicated than it was as little as five years ago, but instead of dividing us, it should serve to unify and mobilize us."

The recently completed 2019 Spring Storm (Kevadtorm) exercise is an example of such unity, Luik added. Estonia, along with units of 17 allies, carried out an exercise with some 9,000 participants, demonstrating that "we are working together with our allies based on common plans, and taking it seriously," the minister said according to a Monday press release by the Ministry of Defence.

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Editor: Dario Cavegn

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