The visit of President Barack Obama to Estonia was primarily symbolic support amid fears Baltic to Russian aggression, say experts interviewed.
Due to increasing concern about the Baltic states retain their sovereignty against the backdrop of events in Ukraine Obama’s speech was “a very important signal for us in terms of security,” – said in an interview with DW Foreign Minister Urmas Paet. According to him, the president of the United States made it clear that all members of the NATO level: “No matter big or small country, the level of safety for all members of the same alliance.”
Thus Paet commented on Obama’s statement that “the protection of Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius are not less important than the protection of Berlin, Paris and London.” The signal on the eve of the NATO summit in Wales was designed to allay fears of the Baltic region, which began to be heard after the annexation of Crimea by Russia in March this year under the pretext of protecting Russian-speaking population.
“We are concerned that Russia sees the presence of ethnic Russians abroad as any reason, a prerequisite in order to invade the country,” – said Paet.
During his speech, Obama made it clear Baltic allies, which in itself is their membership in the alliance – is a guarantee of safety. “You had once lost its independence. With NATO, you will never again lose it,” – said the president during a standing ovation room.
“This is the key message of the Baltic states. It means that this time we can protect NATO,” – said in an interview with DW Estonian expert on Russia and the Baltic region Raivo Vare. Assurances that the Baltic states will not lose independence – is a code that is important for the peoples of these countries, the expert added. Psychologically important moment for Estonians, Vare said, was the fact that during his speech, Obama repeatedly mentioned the history of this country.
Obama’s speech really justified expectations, agree director of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute Andres Kasekamp. “He was not talking about something new or unexpected, but he brilliantly linked the common problems of global politics Estonian experience,” – said he will make the American president.
Waiting for concrete steps
The experts agree that the president’s speech was of more symbolic. He was very briefly outlined the practical steps that the Alliance plans to take to ensure the security of its eastern members who insist on strengthening NATO military presence on its territory.
Among these measures Obama – accommodation in the area of military equipment, training of military personnel, as well as rotation of American troops in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
According Kasekampa no doubt that Estonians expect from the American side of concrete steps, but no one expected the president will outline them while performing. “We certainly will be disappointed if this does not happen at the summit in Wales” – warned the expert.
Obama made clear that NATO will maintain a military presence in the Baltic region, said Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet. But step by step, likely to be announced after a two-day summit of the alliance, he agrees: “Take a clear political decision is fundamental NATO.”