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Estonia: Small Country, Powerful Influence

August 31, 2017

Currently, Estonia is center stage for the ongoing NATO exercise Operation Atlantic Resolve. Due to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, many NATO countries, particularly those Untitled.pngwho share a border with Russia or that are nearby, were fearful of possible Russian aggression into their territory. To ease these fears, Operation Atlantic Resolve is geographically conducted in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. These exercises are intended to send a clear message to Russia as well as to reassure these concerned countries. The operation consists of numerous exercises designed to promote partnership between US and NATO troops in a wide range of environments. The operation also gives US forces the opportunity to learn about customs, politics, and other valuable knowledge about the region.

For a country roughly 217 times smaller than the United States and with approximately 323 less million people, Estonia sure pulls its weight when it comes to meeting the 2% graph-1GDP defense spending requirement agreed to by NATO members. In fact, this small country is one of only five countries that are currently meeting this requirement. While this might surprise some, Estonia has long had a history of being the workhorse in many aspects of European Security against Russian aggression.

In a recent visit to Indiana University, Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas expressed Estonia’s willingness to have a productive dialogue with Russia. However, Prime Minister Ratas was quick to admit that dialogue with Russia has been increasingly op3c4421-2more challenging after the annexation of Crimea. Prime Minister Ratas also advocated for a unified European and US voice when dealing with Russia, which may be challenging under the current US administration who has sung high praises for Putin and who has questioned NATO members for not contributing their fair share of the defense spending.

“EU relations with Russia is another widely discussed topic. It is quite often on the table in my meetings with different state leaders and also frequently asked about by journalists. Russia is our neighbour and naturally we would wish to have good relations based on the same values and principles. Unfortunately Russia has shown over the years by attacking independent states such as Georgia and Ukraine that it does not follow the principles of international law nor respect the norms and principles that it committed itself to in the early post-Soviet era.

Therefore, dialogue with Russia is only possible in limited areas with clear understanding of our interests and values. We, be it the EU or the United States, should convey a common message when we engage in bilateral contacts with Russia.”

Regardless of the productivity of any potenital discussions with Russia and the current US administration, Estonia plays a vital role in European Security and will for the foreseeable future.

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