As much of the current news cycle revolves around COVID-19, several developments not related to the virus have been followed by the Estonian American National Council (EANC) in the last few weeks. While time should provide more clarity on how they will play out, EANC is concerned about their effect on Estonia, NATO, and the broader transatlantic community, and will track them closely as more information becomes available. The backdrop of Victory Day on June 23rd provides an appropriate moment to reflect on the status of Estonia’s security and how to best protect it. ERR News coverage of the day’s events and accompanying photo gallery offer meaningful reminders at news.err.ee.
Probably the best-defined issue is the Kremlin’s revisionist disinformation campaign
kicking into high gear around Russia’s June 24th Victory Day parade and other World War II anniversaries. The most significant event was the introduction of legislation in the Russian Duma that, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, would “revoke a December 24, 1989, resolution by the Soviet Union’s Supreme Council that condemned the nonaggression pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.” The full article is at www.rferl.org under the Russia tab’s June 19th headlines. The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to the move by expressing disapproval and summoning the Russian Ambassador to Estonia to account for the initiative. The ministry issued a press release on June 18th at vm.ee/en/news. The Latvian and Lithuanian governments took similar action.
The possible withdrawal of 9,500 U.S. troops from Germany proposed by the White House in early June is another issue of EANC concern. Numerous Members of Congress from both parties, NATO leaders, and other foreign policy officials and experts have spoken out against the proposition. To date there is not much detail available regarding when or how the withdrawal would take place. With President Duda of Poland visiting Washington on June 24th, we expect the possibility of moving troops to Poland to be discussed at the White House and will look for news following that meeting. While EANC supports the strongest possible U.S. presence in Europe and continued cooperation with our NATO allies to ensure transatlantic security, until more information is available, we hesitate to draw conclusions on this issue. In the meantime, we are letting our concerns be known in Congress by speaking with relevant committee staffers and seeking to better understand the situation.
News of the Administration’s intention to possibly invite Russia to the September G7 summit is also on our radar. Russia was expelled from the group in 2014 after its invasion of Crimea, an act that the forum condemned in its March 2, 2014 Statement by G7 Nations. This statement reads in part:
We, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States and the President of the European Council and President of the European Commission, join together today to condemn the Russian Federation’s clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, in contravention of Russia’s obligations under the UN Charter and its 1997 basing agreement with Ukraine…
We note that Russia’s actions in Ukraine also contravene the principles and values on which the G7 and the G8 operate. As such, we have decided for the time being to suspend our participation in activities associated with the preparation of the scheduled G8 Summit in Sochi in June, until the environment comes back where the G8 is able to have meaningful discussion.
Russia has not met the conditions identified for meaningful discussion or reinstatement to the forum. G7 member nations, including the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany have spoken out against the invitation. This is another case EANC will follow and issue updates as more information becomes available.
Finally, Russian military aircraft continue to violate Estonian airspace, with five incursions in the third week of June alone. For more details, please see news.err.ee for June 22nd. This persistent behavior remains a steady reminder that the Kremlin can demonstrate its lack of regard for national sovereignty via a spectrum of tactics, from blatant seizure of territory to these subtle violations in the air.
EANC will remain current on all of the issues above as they develop and will keep our readers informed. Please follow our Facebook page and check www.estosite.org for the latest updates.