Estonia would be wiped off the map and the historic centre of its capital city razed to the ground under current Nato plans to defend the country from any Russian attack, according to its prime minister.
Kaja Kallas told reporters on Wednesday that the alliance’s existing defence plans for the three Baltic states was to allow them to be overrun before liberating them after 180 days.
Remarking that it was now more than 100 days since Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Estonia’s prime minister said: “If you compare the sizes of Ukraine and the Baltic countries, it would mean the complete destruction of countries and our culture.”
She added: “Those of you who have been to [the capital] Tallinn and know our old town and the centuries of history that’s here and centuries of culture that’s here — that would all be wiped off the map, including our people, our nation.”
Her comments came ahead of a Nato summit in Madrid next Tuesday, at which the alliance will discuss plans for the defence of its eastern flank in light of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, including how to better defend the Baltic countries.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are pushing for the current strategy of having a thousand or so foreign troops in each country to act as a tripwire to be replaced by one in which Nato seeks to defend every inch of territory from the first day, especially after seeing Russian atrocities in Ukraine.
Commenting on what she called Nato’s plan “to lose it and liberate it afterwards”, she said the atrocities allegedly carried out by Russian troops in the Ukrainian town of Bucha took place about 80 days after the invasion began. “Now everyone sees that this tripwire concept doesn’t really work,” Kallas said.
She added that she had spoken to foreign troops based in Estonia — largely those from the UK — and they had told her that, given the current plans mean they would be all but wiped out by a potential Russian invasion “they are not fond of the idea that . . . they are supposed to die”.
Asked about Kallas’ comments, a Nato official said the alliance “has the plans in place to deter threats and defend all allies, but we never go into operational details. The secretary-general made clear that strengthening deterrence and defence is one of the key decisions at next week’s Nato summit.”
They added: “We will do more to ensure we can defend every inch of allied territory, at all times and against any threat. We will adapt the Nato force structure, with more forces at high readiness. We will also have more Nato forward-deployed combat formations, to strengthen battle groups in the east.”
Kallas is asking for a division of troops, which is between 20,000 and 25,000 Nato soldiers, to be allocated each to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
But that did not mean all these troops would be foreign or have to be permanently based in each country. Thousands of Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian troops would be included with maybe a brigade — 3,000 to 5,000 troops — of foreign soldiers based in the country, rising to two brigades over time, Kallas said.
Berlin has proposed a “robust combat brigade” of troops in Lithuania — to add to its current battalion of about 1,000 soldiers — but with most of the soldiers based in Germany, able to move to the Baltics at short notice or for exercises.
Kallas said of the so-called German model: “I wouldn’t be so fixated on these different models as long as they deliver the result that we are able to defend ourselves from the first day.”
The Baltic countries are also asking for the existing air policing mission in the region to be bulked up to give Nato aircraft the possibility of shooting down enemy jets if needed.
Kallas stressed that Estonia was “the biggest supporter” of Finland and Sweden joining Nato but said it seemed unlikely that Turkey’s move to block their membership bids would be resolved by next week’s summit.
Additional reporting by Henry Foy in Brussels
Source: Financial Times