Two weeks before the invasion of Ukraine, leaders in the Baltic nations were already on edge as the Russian military had amassed hundreds of thousands of troops on the border and President Vladimir Putin did not appear to be backing down.
If Ukraine falls, they fear they are next on the slippery slope in a revival of the former Soviet Union.
Leaders and residents of Estonia expressed their concerns to Joel Rosenberg while he was in Tallinn earlier this month for the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast. The ALL ISRAEL NEWS editor-in-chief detailed the prescient warnings of these Baltic leaders in a series of articles.
In an exclusive interview, Estonia’s former foreign minister told Rosenberg that Putin doesn’t just want to invade and re-occupy Ukraine – but all the Baltic states.
“My main message is that the West should be ready to show the willpower and determination in fighting back against the dictator and aggressor in the Kremlin,” Member of Parliament Urmas Reinsalu said. “And this is not a recent crisis – the [Russian] war in Ukraine, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, has taken place for almost a decade.”
Reinsalu called on U.S. President Joe Biden to immediately put American forces on the ground in Estonia to serve alongside Estonia’s military, along with the 2,000 British soldiers operating there with NATO. He said the Americans should deploy Patriot missile batteries on Estonian soil as well.
“This is not an academic issue for us,” he added. “This is a very urgent reality. It's very important to get more military capabilities to the Baltics.”
“We have today on Estonian soil around 2,000 soldiers from the U.K. – they will double that number in the coming time. Is that enough? No, it's not enough.”
“We would like to see also a permanent U.S. military presence,” Reinsalu said.
“Putin only understands power,” he said. “Putin only understands the deterrence and willpower of West – this is this key to stopping Putin from additional occupations in Ukraine” and from attacking the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, he said.
“The threat to the Baltic states is real.”
Martin Helme – a candidate for prime minister of Estonia – is the nation’s former minister of Finance, current opposition leader in Parliament and heads the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE).
In an exclusive interview, he told Rosenberg that he is grateful his country is a NATO member. But Helme pointed out Putin’s unchecked advances in recent years and the danger this poses to his own nation.
“What he still hasn’t taken back or gathered from the lost bunch [of collapsed Soviet Union republics] is Ukraine and the Baltic countries,” Helme said. “So, if he's done with Ukraine, he'll come after the Baltic countries. That's as clear as day to us.”
Historian Karolina Wigura and political analyst Jarosław Kuisz said that from Warsaw to Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn, “the mood is full of anxiety.”
“The Russian military menace to Ukraine reawakens old traumas and, paradoxically, not only those generated from the East. Another angst is, to put it bluntly, that the West will again abandon us,” they said.
HOW ARE BALTIC STATES RESPONDING?
All members of NATO, the nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania doubled down on support of Ukraine and closed their airspace to Russian air carriers. In a joint press release, the three nations announced their intention to send weapons to Ukraine. Estonia will provide Javelin anti-armor missiles, while Latvia and Lithuania will provide Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.
Estonian President Alar Karis was in Kyiv last week before the invasion and promised continued support.
“Indeed, it is a decisive moment in the European history. President Putin will answer to the future generations, for his violent actions. Also we, European and Western leaders, have the responsibility to step up to our values, our commitment to Europe united and at peace. We regret every single life lost,” Karis said. “It is our duty to protect our common values and the democracy we all helped to build. A threat to Ukraine is a threat to the security of Europe.”
"We remain fully committed to the policy of non-recognition of illegal annexation of Ukraine's territories. Ukraine has a right to defend its borders and independence and we continue helping Ukraine to build its military capabilities to stand against the aggression," he said.
Latvia’s Deputy Prime Minister Artis Pabriks noted that “Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania only broke free of Moscow 30 years ago, when the Soviet Union collapsed. All three countries joined NATO in 2004.”
“If Ukraine falls to Russia…then we are next in line – that is very clear,” Pabriks told The Globe and Mail in January.
Biden has also dispatched NATO troops to the Baltics. On Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said troops will head to member states along the eastern front.
Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS