The Estonian prime minister has called for a greater US presence in the Baltic states to deter Russia, as it has called on the West to remain united and not make the slightest concession to Moscow.
Kaya Kallas told the Financial Times that NATO must strengthen its eastern flank in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, whether or not Russia invades Ukraine, something many Western experts fear more as Moscow deploys more than 100,000 troops. on the border.
She added that Estonia would like to see “the great allies present in our region”, an indirect call for US troops to be based in the Baltic states, as this is the only large NATO country without a presence in the region.
“The biggest deterrent there is that you have great friends. If you are bullied at school, the bully does not bully you if you have strong and great friends, and the same goes for deterrence. . . “Russia’s biggest deterrent is the American flag,” she added.
Tensions in the Baltic states and elsewhere have intensified over Russia’s intentions in Ukraine and Belarus, as well as Moscow’s demand for NATO to return to its 1997 borders before Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania join the military alliance.
Callas called Russia’s request “clearly scandalous” and part of a model of negotiations in line with the doctrine of longtime Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko – demand the maximum, give ultimatums and do not give an inch.
“Russia has created a problem and is now threatening to solve it through outrageous demands. The big question is: what is the western answer? The West, NATO, the European Union were very united. This was a bad surprise for the Russians. We have to keep this line together, “she added.
Kallas said some compromises with Russia may sound like “small things” such as limiting military exercises or arms control, but NATO must resist.
“What should the West and NATO offer Russia for de-escalation? This issue is already a trap. NATO has not created this situation. “The only one who can de-escalate is Russia,” she said.
She insisted she did not see “cracks in unity”, despite recent fears about French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for a European dialogue with Russia. “We may have different ideas for tactics,” Callas said, but Macron was a “true European” and Europe as a whole was “united” to Moscow.
NATO has strengthened its eastern flank since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, stepping up its air police mission in the Baltic Sea and deploying multinational battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
The current deployment in Estonia is led by British forces with a presence of Danish and French troops; Canada leads the battalion in Latvia, Germany in Lithuania and the United States in Poland.
“However, we would like to see this, the strengthening of NATO’s eastern flank. Not only if they invade Ukraine. We have been insisting on this for a long time, “Callas said.
Estonia, one of the few NATO countries to meet the Alliance’s 2 per cent defense target, last week announced a sharp increase in military spending by 380m euros by 2025. It also said it would send anti-tank missiles to help Ukraine defends itself against potential Russian aggression.
Kallas said Estonia would present already made public procurement plans, raising spending to about 2.4% of gross domestic product. She called on other European countries to raise their defense spending, a long-standing demand from US presidents, especially Donald Trump.
“The important part of it is that we are doing our part and we also expect our allies to do their part. . . For the bigger allies, the question is always that we do not depend on you, we do our part. Other European countries also need to increase to 2 percent, “Callas added.