As Poland strikes a $4.75 billion arms deal with America, Estonia is getting jealous, and wants their own toys to match. But, for Estonia, missiles aren’t enough. While Estonia already has a group of French, Dutch, and British troops, they also want to play to host to advanced aircraft as well as a permanent rotation of American troops, of course, to match Poland’s stationing of US troops as part of its “enhanced forward presence” initiative. Euractiv reports:
Estonian President called for US Patriot missiles and troops to be deployed to her small Baltic state yesterday (4 April), telling AFP it was necessary to make deterrence “believable” for Russia.
In an interview coinciding with her visit to the White House, the conservative leader said the deployment of American materiel and personnel would bolster existing NATO troop deployments — launched in response to Russia’s more bellicose posture.
“We want to be sure that both NATO’s territory and NATO soldiers are well protected,” she said.
“We need to make sure that there is the air defense and the air support for these forces, in case that is necessary. We need our deterrence to be believable.”
Kaljulaid said the proposed deployments had not come up on Tuesday in conversation with President Donald Trump — who is notoriously prickly about the use of US military assets abroad — but talks between the two governments were ongoing.
Today, it was my honor to welcome Estonia President @KerstiKaljulaid, Lithuania President @Grybauskaite_LT, and Latvia President @Vejonis to the @WhiteHouse. Congratulations on your 100th anniversaries of independence! #BalticSummit: https://t.co/XAchZ3zUSe pic.twitter.com/RRftyTGEvb
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 3, 2018
“We are past the stage in our relations that you come to Washington with an empty goody bag and then you go back with a bag filled with stuff,” she said.
“There is a permanent debate and discussion between the governments of the two countries,” she added, listing Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Vice President Mike Pence as key interlocutors.
Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine has rekindled long-standing fears about aggression in the already nervous Baltic states.
With a combined population of just six million people, the three countries were occupied and annexed by Moscow during World War II.
The trio broke free from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991 and joined both the European Union and NATO in 2004.
Kaljulaid suggested that Western countries had paid for mistakes in their dealings with Russia.
“We carry part of the responsibility for the current state of play,” she said. “That starts with 2008 in Georgia. Our reaction to the partial occupation of Georgia was weak and it was back to business as usual quite quickly.”
“That is part of the reason Crimea happened, Russia just misread what will happen, what will be reaction. We got our act together and stopped the avalanche.”
Now, Kaljulaid said, the West needs to show “strategic patience,” including sustaining economic sanctions on Russia and perhaps expanding upon them.
NATO has sent a battle group to Estonia — namely troops from the UK, France and Denmark — but Kaljulaid said that the deployment of American soldiers would bring another dimension.
“We’d rather see that bilaterally we could agree to have some boots on the ground on a permanent rotational basis,” she said.
“This is very useful to calm the jittery nerves. Some people might think that NATO takes a long time to act, but the US could be quicker. There is some rationale in this thinking.”
US troops are already taking part in NATO’s “enhanced forward presence” but are based in nearby Poland.
Kaljulaid’s comments came as Russia embarked on a live-fire drill in the Baltic Sea which has caused concern in Sweden and interfered with Latvian commercial aviation.
“This kind of activity indeed is quite unprecedented,” the president said.
“I think it’s part of the retaliation for the Salisbury reaction,” she added, linking the drill to the expulsion of more than 100 Russian officials from Western nations.
Lithuania is also host to Patriot missile systems, which have been a part of NATO’s large scale military drills next to the Russian border. The Patriot mobile missile system is used to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, low altitude cruise missiles, and aircraft.
Such armaments are a continued aspect of NATO’s intent to contain Russia with an increased military build up around its borders. The US is taking advantage of the bad blood that these Eastern European nations had with the Soviet Union as part of its global strategy by citing “Russian aggression”, the chief modern examples of which include the annexation of Crimea, and Russia’s defense of South Ossetia against Sakashvili’s Georgian activities, in order to stir up prejudice against Russia and a willingness to put themselves on the front lines as volunteers to NATO’s apparently anti-Russian agenda in the region.