Estonian Foreign Min Says Russia Remains Potential Threat

Posted in NATO , Europe | 18-Nov-03 | Source: Wall Street Journal

Estonia's Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland said neighboring Russia remained a potential future threat to this small Baltic state, but said Estonia's entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization next year would lessen dangers from any quarter. Speaking in an interview in Estonia's Postimees daily Wednesday, she harkened back to the history of the Baltic states, including Latvia and Lithuania, which were occupied by Red Army troops in 1940 - and which only restored their independence amid the 1991 Soviet collapse. "We cannot forget or undervalue what has happened in history, and it is absolutely irresponsible to say that the Russian danger is now over for all time - that it can never recur," she was quoted as telling the newspaper. But she was quick to add that the threat posed by Russia to this Baltic Sea nation of just 1.4 million - with its regular army of fewer than 5,000 soldiers - shouldn't be exaggerated, saying "the actual risks now come from elsewhere," from international terrorism. Baltic-Russian relations have been strained for years, particularly over Kremlin allegations that Estonia and Latvia discriminate against their Russian-speaking minorities. The Baltics, in turn, have accused Moscow of sometimes trying to bully neighboring nations. The three Baltic states are to be inducted into the U.S.-led NATO alliance in 2004, fulfilling what once seemed unattainable dreams for the small, historically vulnerable nations. Moscow declared it would see Baltic NATO entry as a threat to Russia's security, though it seemed to tone down its opposition after U.S.-Russian relations improved in recent years.