Staunton, September 27 – No one in Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania should be sleeping peacefully given the threat that Vladimir Putin poses to all three and the failure of the West to stand up to the Kremlin leader in Ukraine or adequately prepare to defend the three Baltic NATO member countries, according to Andrey Illarionov.
Speaking in Palanga, Illarionov said that he had recently been asked whether people in Riga should be able to sleep peacefully at night given that Latvia is a member of NATO. “No one in Riga could reply to it in the positive,” he said, and “the same question,” with the same answer, “could be raised in Tallinn, Vilnius, Palanga, Bucharest and other cities.”
US President Barack Obama’s statement in the Estonian capital that NATO is “prepared to defend Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius” is helpful, the Russian commentator said. “But we must look at military readiness and military equipment available not just words.” From that point of view, “NATO forces in the Baltic are insufficient.”
More to the point, Illarionov told his Lithuanian audience, instead of talking about Riga, we should be focusing on Narva, a predominantly Russian-speaking city in Estonia on the Russian border. “How would NATO react if ‘little green men’ turned up not near Tallinn, Riga or Vilnius, but instead Narva?”
According to Illarionov, the West has failed that test in Ukraine, and “as long as an aggressor is not subjected to the full force of economic and military sanctions, no one can sleep peacefully.” What is even worse, he said, is that the West talks about “a crisis in Ukraine” rather than what it is, “a Russian-Ukrainian war” in which Moscow is the aggressor.
Using the term “crisis” represents a victory for Putin and his propaganda machine, especially since the Russian leader has been “preparing for a major war at least since 2003” and has made little secret of it on the assumption that no one would be prepared to call him on that – an assumption that so far has worked.
Putin himself sees what he is doing as a war – and as World War IV because he views the Cold War as the third – and he believes as well that what he is doing is entirely legitimate because he is protecting “Russians,” an expansive category that includes almost anyone he wants it to, Illarionov says.
Russia’s Anschluss of Crimea shows something else that is disturbing, the Russian analyst says. The “old international consensus about the inviolability of borders” has broken down. Putin has seized a neighboring territory and the West has failed to take effective action to defend Ukraine and its own interests.
In that situation, he concluded, “people in the Baltics cannot sleep peacefully.”