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The Worst Security Guarantee in the World
A Shocking Admission from Estonia's Prime Minister
“If you think it will be enough to send newly freed helots, a private citizen as their leader, then I advise you to take no action. For you should realize that this war will pit you against powerful forces and against a man who is so intelligent a general that whatever he sets out to achieve, whether by stealth, anticipation, or open force he does not fail to get…”
…Finally they answered that at the present moment they could not send a force suitable to assist Pharsalus, and they told Polydamas, therefore, to return and arrange matters for himself and his city as best as he could.”
- Xenophon [Hellenika, 6.1.14-17]
On Wednesday, June 22, the Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas, made a stunning admission: NATO has no plans to defend the Baltic states. Instead, according to her, NATO expects that Russia can conquer these NATO member states in a very short time, and will invade to liberate them 180 days later. If what she is saying is true, this is a massive reproach of NATO’s expansionist policies [which she inexplicably still supports] in that NATO keeps adding members it can’t or won’t protect, and who also contribute little or nothing to the alliance’s military capacity. She refers to the NATO troops in Estonia as nothing but a “tripwire”, meaning they are being used as hostages to “prevent” war. This is shameful for everyone involved, and makes this alliance the worst possible option for the Baltic States: if they will fall under complete Russian military domination anyway, how is it better to then be guaranteed as a battleground between two major powers? The Baltic States are not large, and could be destroyed entirely if they were to “host” a major conflict. I can’t speak to why these small states, always wedged between major powers, have arranged their security in this fashion, but it is not wise.
NATO expansion has been much discussed since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine War. I have my own theories about NATO’s goals, but even that does not really cover why they would have wanted to bring these indefensible nations into the alliance, besides simply to stoke war. I’ve said previously that Turkiye is one of the only genuinely strategically useful NATO members, but the Baltic states truly provide nothing and are only a liability. For example, Estonia has a population of 1.2 million and a military of 6,500 active duty troops, according to the CIA Factbook. That isn’t enough to defend their country against anything, much less to send actual aid. And NATO is a mutual defense pact, the United States is supposed to treat an attack on the Estonian capital of Tallinn like an attack on Washington, DC! Except apparently, we won’t even actually defend Tallinn as such, we’ll basically just “Fix it in post.” But for some reason NATO keeps expanding. It is seen as some sort of gentleman’s club of “liberal democracies” forming a new world order, instead of a military alliance, it seems. But the expansionists even went to bring in Kosovo, a country NATO countries don’t recognize, which is ran by an actual mafia who has been credibly accused of organ trafficking, and whose military is described by the CIA Factbook as follows:
“Military and security service personnel strengths
the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) has approximately 3,500 personnel; note - Kosovo plans for the KSF to eventually number around 5,000 troops (2021)
Military equipment inventories and acquisitions
the KSF is equipped with small arms and light vehicles only; it relies on donations and since 2013 has received donated equipment from Turkey and the US (2021)”
I’m sure we’ll all sleep more soundly when know the mighty Kosovo Defense Forces are on side and we’ll be upholding or values by protecting this decrepit narco-state [fortunately Kosovo has not yet been added to NATO, but it is begging to be, and I imagine the imperialists will oblige.]
[It’s interesting to note that the CIA Factbook has changed the spelling of “Kiev” to “Kyiv”, yet still says “Turkey” despite the country’s formal name change to “Turkiye.”]
When the Baltic States were brought into NATO, in return for their diplomatic support of the disastrous invasion of Iraq, Russia formally protested but did not make much of a fuss. As John Mearsheimer, one of the few prominent competent Russia analysts, noted in an excellent recent speech, at the time of these expansions Russia was still down from the breakup of the Soviet Union and wasn’t considered powerful enough to worry too much about. Further, both due to their small size and population, and unique cultures, Russia is relatively less concerned about them than countries like Ukraine and Georgia. Whereas much of Ukraine is historic Russia and another part of it was always the Russian province of “Little Russia” [Galicia, in the west, has never been part of the Russian Empire, and instead passed between Poland and Austria-Hungary], the Baltic states, though long-time Russian possessions, were never seen as part of Russia. Further, as a practical matter, while Ukraine is the largest state in Europe besides Russia, and has a substantial population of 40 million, Russia has always known of the Baltic states what Kallas now admitted: the Baltic states are indefensible by NATO under its current security arrangements. Russia doesn’t particularly need them for anything, and in a major conflict can either seize them no problem [in 60 hours, according to US war games], or use them as a convenient place to fight NATO forces outside of its own soil.
There is a Machiavelli quote which I keep coming back to, from the chapter “It Is Not a Prudent Policy to Form a Relationship With a Prince Who Has More Prestige Than Power”, where he states,
“It should be noted that alliances concluded with princes who possess neither the ability to assist you because of their distance from you, nor the power to do so on account of their poor organization, or for some other cause, offer more fame than real assistance to those who entrust themselves to them.” [Discourses, II.11]
This is indeed what the Baltic states have done, proud to show off their reforms and liberalized economies following the fall of the Soviet Union. They wanted to be “in” with the West instead of Russia. In an era where Russia was weak this wasn’t so much of a problem, and they did enjoy the prestige. Further, these countries are relatively more aligned with “Western values”, insofar as small countries traditionally dominated by their neighboring powers tend to have relatively liberal cultures, especially when allowed self-rule. However, in doing so, they’ve made themselves the enemy of their next door neighbor, who is more powerful than them by orders of magnitude. It seems to me they would have been wise to pursue the policy of neutrality that neighboring Finland has recently unwisely chosen to abandon. And there was never any reason to believe NATO had their best interests at heart, or else NATO would have told them to sort their affairs as best they could, as in the introductory quote, instead of leading them down a “primrose path” like they did with Ukraine.
So why is Prime Minister Kallas saying this now? Well, for one thing, this “Putin Critic’s” coalition just fell apart. She had been allied with the Center Party, a political party presumably from Estonia’s large ethnic Russian minority [almost a quarter of the country] which was in a formal alliance with Putin’s United Russia until it broke off relations when the war began. It is alleged that the split had to do with “education and welfare reforms,” but it seems clear that Ukraine policy had a large impact, though I cannot find this referenced in English language media, which clearly wants to promote the idea of European solidarity on Ukraine [requests to the Twittersphere for information using the #Estonia hashtag produced no results.] Presumably she finds it politically advantageous to scare the public, but in doing so she’s being more honest than most about the fact that Russia is winning in Ukraine, such as this quote published in Newsweek:
“They have plenty of troops still who can come (to fight)—They are not counting the lives that they are losing. They are not counting the artillery that they are losing there. So I don't think that we should underestimate them in the longer term to still keep this up.”
This is in stark contrast to the many fallacious claims of Russian collapse you hear, though also seems to make her yet another person willing to “fight them to the last Ukrainian.”
Still, the importance of the Prime Minister of Estonia acknowledging that Estonia could easily be “wiped from the map”, and that NATO is using it as a “tripwire” while having a “lose it and liberate it later” strategy should not be understated. She somehow thinks this is all an argument for both NATO expansion and her own Russia-hostile leadership, and voters may see it that way, but I don’t. It seems clear knowing these things that both Estonia’s NATO membership and her hostility towards Russia have been a mistake which unnecessarily threatens the well-being of the entire country. Or perhaps she thinks she can influence NATO to change its policies and devote more time to defending its frontiers, in which case, of course, she’s just requesting foreign powers to occupy her “independent” country anyhow. And you know the West is quite meddlesome, its not like the Western powers have a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of their “allies.” Regardless of what she hopes to accomplish with these statements, being as no one has seriously countered this claim, we can assume these really are NATO’s plans for the Baltic states. As things stand, their best hope is simply that Russia doesn’t choose to invade, as this “lose it liberate it later” strategy is worse for the Estonian people than not have a “security guarantee” at all. And of course, since the Baltic states are peaceful and stable, Russia’s only real pretext for attacking is their NATO membership itself. [Well, and Lithuania’s insane move to blockade Kaliningrad, but it surely would not have done that but for being in NATO.]
There is an old Woody Allen movie called Love and Death, which is essentially a parody of War and Peace with Woody Allen playing his usual character caught up in the Napoleonic Wars. At some point, he says something along the lines of, “What is the difference if the French or the Russians rule us, they’re going to act the same, who cares?” I often think about this, since there is an appeal to the idea of “self-rule” but what matters more is how the government which rules you behave. Certainly, Russia is less liberalized than Estonia, but life in modern Russia is surely far better than living in a destroyed warzone- if you survived that long. Russia controlled these regions for hundreds of years, and it was basically fine- the problem with the USSR was communism, not Russia being the dominant member. People in the US, whose surface level understanding of World War II is the only thing they know about history, like to say “You would have just let them take Poland” if you show any opposition to military intervention, despite that what did happen during WW2 was clearly the worst thing that could have happened to Poland and anything else would have been better. Similarly, the Russia-Ukraine War is the worst thing that could be happening to Ukraine [besides nuclear war, which it makes more likely], and thus many concessions [“appeasement!”] were worth it to avoid the war; similarly, being a battlefield between Russia and NATO is literally the worst thing that could happen to Estonia besides atomic destruction [which it could easily lead to anyhow.] They would have been wise to follow the policy of benign neutrality which served Finland so well until they foolishly abandoned it and followed the other Baltic states into NATO [by the way, during the time I was writing this, Finland, Sweden, and Turkiye came to an agreement about the NATO applications, with Erdogan seemingly getting everything he wanted.] Hopefully this war doesn’t expand to a full Russia-NATO conflict, but if it does, the Baltic states will find that they made horrible security arrangements all in the name of prestige and that because of it they are less safe than ever. It truly is the worst security guarantee in the world.
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