Eesti Elu
New law allows Russian military operational flexibility on foreign soil
Arvamus 13 Nov 2009  Eesti Elu
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On November 9, the day that Europe and Canada commemorated the opening of the Berlin Wall, Russian president Dmitri Medvedev signed into law amendments to national security legislation making it legal for the military to protect Russian citizens abroad.

The changes in law also allow the military to be used preventatively, to counter potential threats beyond Russia’s border, to counter aggression against other states and to fight piracy and assure safety in maritime transport.

The former head of the FSB (Russia’s national security agency) Nikolai Patrušev has stated that Russia considers regional conflicts and local wars as national security threats and could use tactical nuclear weapons as a preventative measure.

Defense experts in Georgia insist that the new legislation would provide ample justification for Russian use of military force in Georgia’s South Ossetia region. Pessimistic critics say that Russia is spoiling for conflict to develop with Georgia and Ukraine.

Estonian observers view the sections pertaining to protection of Russian citizens abroad as being most perilous for countries with a sizable population of Russian citizens, such as Estonia.

Some point out that it would not be complicated to deliberately fabricate an excuse for Russian forces to rush over the border. (Several units of elite and Special Forces have their home bases just east of the Estonian border. Needless to say, the substantial numbers serving in just these units and their supplied killing power far outstrip anything that Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania has with which to resist and repel an attack.) The scenario could play out a simple situation: provoke Russians in Narva or Kohtla-Järve or Sillamäe to take to the streets to protest anything, incite a physical conflict with authorities, guarantee a few Russian casualties and Moscow would find ample justification to enter Estonia and “intervene.”

Many foreign policy analysts insist that such developments are unlikely to occur in the near future. Identified as number one in the Kremlin’s hierarchy of international priorities is the management of energy resources in the Middle East, Barents Sea, Arctic, Central Asia and Caspian Sea regions. If political factors endanger the custody of these energy resources, Russia reserves the right to use military force to remove this danger.

Moscow states that dangerous developments are more likely to develop in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East, South Asia, Africa and the Korean peninsula rather than in Northern and Central Europe.

Estonian military officials point out that joining NATO was totally warranted as witnessed by Russian aggression against non-NATO member Georgia, where 6% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product is spent on defense. Estonian defense strategy is built on two assumptions: that Estonia can fully depend on NATO’s collective defense principle (an attack against one member is an attack on them all); and that Estonia maintains a reliable primary defense capability.
 
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