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Ukraine : view from the Baltic states

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Rome/ Tallinn. March 3, 2024

Austrian AEJ member Roberto Sciarrone interviews Kalev Stoicescu, Chairman, Estonia’s parliamentary National Defence Committee on NATO and the deal with its Baltic States members

Sciarrone: Mr. Stoicescu, the three Baltic States’ agreement with NATO is based on the solid help provided by NATO’s presence in the area. What does this strategy mean from a communication point of view?

Stoicescu: Russia’s aggression is not imminent or predictable. But it is more likely if Moscow detects weakness and vulnerability in NATO’s eastern flank, and the alliance in general. It is all about deterring Russia, persuading Russia that we are collectively and absolutely prepared to defend ourselves, and Russia will be defeated in case of aggression. It does not pay off to attack NATO, as we are stronger and determined. The strategic communication is the build-up and show of force. Diplomacy, including telephone calls, unfortunately do not work with Putin’s Russia, as far as we have all seen.

Sciarrone: Do you think that the planned preventive measures represents an important deterrent?

Stoicescu: The answer is yes. We have the duty to deter Russia and prevent large scale war. We would win, but all would suffer, even if Russia faces far more serious consequences that it does now, with its unprovoked, illegal and barbaric aggression against Ukraine.

Sciarrone: What do you think of the latest revelations in the German press regarding the possibility of a Russian attack against the Estonian, Lithuanian, and Latvian territories by 2025?

Stoicescu: Scenarios of exercises or food-for-thought papers, meant for military and defence planners, for some reason end up in newspapers. These are meant for exercising and preparing for different contingencies in particular time spans. It does not mean that someone knows for sure when Russia might be ready to attack any NATO members, or if Russia would actually do that, even if it had restored /improved its economic and military capabilities. 

No one knows when and how Russia’s aggression against Ukraine will end, but there is little doubt that Russia would not venture in a new and far bigger /more catastrophic military adventure before the war in Ukraine is over /stopped. Only then could Russia’s real posture be assessed, as well as its perspectives for recovery.

Sciarrone: Two years after the start of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, what do you think of the ongoing conflict?

Stoicescu: Ukraine needs more support from all Western (NATO/EU) allies. It fights for its and our freedom and democracy. We must win, otherwise we should expect an increasingly revanchist and aggressive Russia. Ukraine can liberate its territory with our help, if we offer help in the necessary amount and consistently, without interruptions. 

But victory over Russia can only be achieved collectively, most importantly by economic means. By restricting Russia’s benefits from cash flows and access to technology that supports its war Industry/production. Russia must be brought economically to its knees so that it cannot sustain its aggression effort too long. This is possible and necessary, but it necessitates strong determination from the Western allies, and clear understanding what is at stake, and what could probably happen if we do not do what is required in this situation.

Sciarrone: With respect to problems linked to European conflicts, what is your view on the tensions today in Africa and the Middle East? Do you believe they can influence and develop further escalation?

Stoicescu: Russia lives by the old Soviet motto: The worse it gets, the better. We are all at war with Russia, although military/ kinetic action is only in Ukraine, where it should stay until we win. Russia confronts us in all other non-military domains, from cyberattacks, propaganda and disinformation, to using migration as a hybrid weapon and damaging under sea-critical infrastructure. 

Russia seeks to spread conflicts to other continents in order to discourage the West’s focus on Ukraine. China’s interests in Africa and the Near-East should not be ignored either, especially given the cooperative relationship between Beijing and Moscow.

Sciarrone: Does the “fragmentation of the world order” into small and medium-sized regional powers also involvie Baltic countries foreign policy?

Stoicescu: The Baltic states are tiny, but they are members of the world’s most powerful alliances, NATO and the EU. That gives us confidence. Democracy is under attack, both from outside and within the West. It is a difficult time, but we must stand up and defend democracy and our way of life, our legal rights. 

We are on the threshold of a new cold war, if we are not already in it. A cold war that is somewhat different to the one after WW II, but which is perhaps more dangerous and unpredictable until the situation more or less stabilises, and certain rules are applied and respected. Those who reject democracy, and fight against it, with Russia (and China) at their forefront, are engaged in an all-out fight that aims at weakening the West, and expelling it from the Global South, as much as possible. The foreign policy of Estonia, and of other Baltic states, aims to strengthen NATO and the EU, and uphold our common democratic values.

 

 

 

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