Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves expressed concern that Russian aggression in Ukraine has led to the collapse of Europe’s security system n a presentation at the Open Society Forum in Tallinn on September 18th.
“The current security architecture in Europe, which relied on both the Helsinki Final Act and the Paris Charter, has now collapsed, following Russia’s aggression in Ukraine,” Ilves said while addressing the audience in a panel entitled, “The Art off Soft Power: The Current Political Situation and Tensions Between The West and Russia.”
Ilves said that the lack of a uniform response towards Russian aggression in Ukraine was a sign of a more general failure in European security policy. The Estonian president noted that the economic interests of some European nations — perhaps a reference to Germany, a major importer of Russian energy resources — led to a delay of sanctions.
Since the start of the Ukraine crisis, Estonia and the other two Baltic States, who are all NATO members, have expressed concern over their own security situations. Russian president Vladimir Putin’s insistence that Moscow can intervene in neighbouring countries in order to protect local ethinc Russian populations has Baltic governments deeply worried, and the former Soviet-occupied countries have hosted NATO military exercises since the Ukraine turmoil broke out.
Estonia only has a population of 1.25 million people, a quarter of whom are ethnic Russian. A former Putin advisor has warned that the Russian president may be eyeing opportunities to retake the Baltics and perhaps even parts of Finland in an attempt to reassert Russia’s imperial history.
“Parts of Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States and Finland are states where Putin claims to have ownership,” Andrej Illarionov, Putin’s chief economic adviser from 2000 to 2005, told the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.
In 2007, Estonia suffered from a massive ten-day cyber attack that disrupted its financial sector. The attack was believed to have been directed by Russia after Estonia sought to remove a Soviet war memorial.
At the beginning of September, an Estonian counterintelligence officer was abducted at gunpoint and taken into Russia — even though there was little overt indication that the Russian government was involved in the kidnapping.
Despite the threat from Russia, the Estonian president expressed at least some confidence that NATO would intervene in the event of a Russian military attack.
“Should NATO fail to abide by the principles stated in Article 5, NATO would lose its credibility and collapse,” President Ilves said. “And all the NATO members know this.”
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