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Russian ‘Provocation’ Risk Worries Estonia Amid U.S. Transition

Russian ‘Provocation’ Risk Worries Estonia Amid U.S. TransitionInstability in the Baltic region has risen because of “the growing aggressiveness of Russia’s regime over several years,” according to Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser. While the threat of provocations would have increased irrespective of who won the U.S. election, Hillary Clinton’s experience on security issues could have shortened the risk period “somewhat,” said Mikser, who was appointed in this month’s change of government.

Russia’s leaders “have tried to break the solidarity of Western countries, sow insecurity and exploit windows when readiness to react to their provocative steps is lower,” Mikser, 43, said Tuesday in an interview in Tallinn, the capital. “It’s inevitably a moment when we must be ready ourselves to react very quickly to these changing threat assessments and keep the attention of our allies.”

The Baltic region, home to a large Russian-speaking minority, has been at the center of concern over expansionist rhetoric from President Vladimir Putin following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for the separatist war in Ukraine. The Western response has included U.S. and European Union sanctions and an increased NATO presence in the continent’s east. Putin has repeatedly denied having any intention designs on the Baltics.

Trump’s suggestion during the campaign that the U.S. should only defend allies that have “fulfilled their obligations” alarmed some in the Baltic region, where Latvia and Lithuania don’t at present meet NATO guidelines for military spending. While Estonia does comply, Trump supporter Newt Gingrich said of Estonia this year that he’s not sure the U.S. should “risk a nuclear war over some place which is the suburbs of St. Petersburg.”

Trump, who takes office in January, has also said he’d like to warm frosty ties with Russia, speaking by phone to Putin since winning the election last month. Mikser, a former defense minister, said the two countries would try to ease relations, though their effort won’t bring about a significant improvement.

“It’s very hard to see any re-engagement” between Russia and the U.S. in the longer term because of differing interests and beliefs, he said. - Bloomberg.
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