Kelam calls for boost of NATO’s military presence in Estonia
Archived Articles 27 Aug 2008  EWR
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TALLINN - Member of European Parliament Tunne Kelam in his speech at a rally in Tallinn over the weekend called for a beefing up of the military presence of NATO in Estonia because of military threat from Russia.

Against the backdrop of increased risk of aggression, Estonia should also increase defence spending, Kelam said at a meeting on Saturday to mark the passage of 21 years from the landmark 1987 Hirvepark rally in Tallinn held on the anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty and its secret protocols.

The remarks from Kelam, of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL), came on the same day when prominent US military analyst Frederick Kagan called to increase NATO's presence on the ground in the Baltic countries.

Kelam told SL Õhtuleht he didn't know about Kagan's article before his speech and the article came as a surprise for him. Such coincidences show that the situation's ripe for change, he added.


Senior Reform Party policymaker Jürgen Ligi, former minister of defense, said in his comments to the daily that first one must remember that Estonian military installations already are NATO bases and that the Ämari air base, for instance, is a NATO air base.

Ligi noted that it is in the framework of NATO that Estonia must build its security.

"Russia's actions now are based on the logic of criminals -- if you beat someone, you get respect," Ligi said, adding that therefore it would not be bad if NATO showed its strength.

Kagan, the intellectual author of the successful US "troop surge" plan in Iraq, believes NATO's presence in the Baltics must be massively strengthened to pre-empt the risk of them being invaded in the same way as Georgia.

Kagan, an expert on the Russian military who has the ear of hawks within the US administration, said in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph that the West needs to match words with deeds if it is to stop Russia turning into an "intolerable, aggressive imperialistic" power.

"We need to help these countries develop sophisticated air defense and anti-tank capabilities that don't pose any offensive threat to Russia, but promise the possibility of very high casualties were they to attempt what they did in Georgia," said Kagan.

"NATO has to make a fundamental decision here about its legal and ethical obligations, and the only way we can really fulfill them is to help these countries defend themselves in advance of an attack," he said.

At present, Kagan pointed out, there would be little to prevent Russia rolling across the border as they did into South Ossetia. Despite all the three Baltic countries now being members of NATO, the alliance has done little to help them build up robust anti-tank capabilities, sophisticated air defense systems, or large reserve armies.

Although any Russian action against a full NATO member would be a far greater act of aggression than its recent incursion into Georgia, Moscow might be tempted to try it in the Baltics as a way of testing NATO's resolve, knowing that the alliance might dither about deploying even conventional forces straightaway.

"I think that Russia does have designs on the Baltic states, and they have established a precedent in Georgia where they think they can use force to defend Russian minorities in other countries," said Kagan.
(Ref. SLÕ, BNS)
 
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