A former Estonian intelligence agent is suspected of espionage in favor of Russia. Vladimir Veitman was arrested in Estonia on suspicion of state treason. Mikhail Aleksandrov, director of the Baltics Department of the Institute for the CIS commented on the situation for Kommersant FM’s Anna Kazakova
It has been reported that (Vladimir ) Veitman (the suspected spy) was an officer of an agency involved in protection of Estonia’s state interests.
Kommersant’s Anna Kazakova: How will this affect Russian-Estonian relations?
Mikhail Aleksandrov: I think that this will not have any particular effect on relations, because relations on the whole are at a very low point in their development. This is now the third incident in the last four years when so-called Russian agents have been detained. Other very sensational scandals of the espionage and intelligence sort have involved Estonia. There is the case of the ship Estonia in 1994, when supposedly components of our S-300 anti-aircraft system was being ferried, and as a result the ship sank. There’s also the seizure of the dry cargo ship Arctic Sea in 2009, involving Eric Cross, a former Estonian spy with close ties to American intelligence.
NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence also operates in Estonia, which is actively working against Russia. So this episode is only one of a series of spy scandals which rattle Russian-Estonian relations from time to time.
AK: You said that several people were detained who could have been working for Russia in Estonia. Does this mean poor work by Russian counterintelligence or good work by Estonians?
MA: I think that Estonia is one of the most active countries of Eastern Europe which is waging espionage and counter-intelligence operations against Russia. It can only be compared with Poland in its activeness and the intensity of these operations. To be honest, the Estonian government should be involved in more useful things for the country, since unlike Poland, Estonia now is getting to be in very sad economic shape.
In trying to overtake all the East Europeans in the cause of opposing Russia, of course they aren’t achieving anything for themselves except for currying favor with the West, for which they get mere crumbs, but thus hinder the establishment of normal relations with the Russian government, and for that suffer serious economic losses.
AK: How often are Estonian spies detained in Russia?
MA: I don’t recall that lately, any Estonian spies have been detained in Russia. At least, there haven’t been any sensational cases. That’s related, most likely, to the fact that our intelligence agencies operate rather effectively, and the Estonians don’t risk acting particularly boldly on our territory.
AK: What are the interests of Russian intelligence in general in Estonia and the Baltics?
MA: NATO’s Cyber Defense Center is one of the main directions of our intelligence activity in Estonia. We’re also interested in NATO’s plan to cover the Baltic region in the event of a worsening of relations between Russia and NATO, in the event of the onset of military actions. Since the Estonians are very strongly integrated into the intelligence community of NATO, and is one of its active participants, of course they are familiar with the modern methods of work, the conduct of operations against Russia, so even that information represents a substantial interest for us.