Isabelle Kumar, euronews: “President Ilves, many thanks for giving us some of your time. Russian president Vladimir Putin is considered a risk-taker. What do you expect of him this year?”
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves: “That is very hard to say. Two years ago we had this unexpected basically post-war game- changer of invading Ukraine and taking over territory, or [Russia] annexing territory. Last year, in 2015, we saw his move into Syria, basically bombing his way to the negotiating table by simply unilaterally going in. So, given the past two years, I wouldn’t want to predict anything.”
euronews: “What about for Estonia? At one point I think you perceived President Putin as posing a military threat to your country. Is that still the case or do you feel sufficiently protected that that is not the case anymore?”
President Ilves: “Well, the situation on the ground—or more properly ‘in the air’—has not changed. I mean, what we saw two years ago was a dramatic increase in military flights without transponders, which is a huge threat to civil aviation, we [could] have some really awful potential damage [from that], and all kinds of maneuvers and exercises right behind our border in a fairly threatening way, not only to us but to the region in general. It’s not just Estonia: Sweden, Denmark, Latvia, Lituania… they have all experienced this dramatic increase.
Certainly in terms of feeling secure, I think what we have seen in the last two years is NATO paying far more attention to our area, as [we are] NATO members, because everyone was lulled into thinking that there would be no threat. Now NATO is changing—has changed—its mind.”
euronews: “What about server security? Estonia was the target of massive cyber attack in 2007; are you sufficiently protected from that now?”
President Ilves: “The cyber attack we experienced then was kind of like ‘cave man era’ compared with what we have now. But I would say in terms of cyber security we are among the most secure countries in the world; on the other hand, that is not saying much.”
euronews: “I know that you perceive President Putin as a threat, but what about in terms of a peace negotiator? Because that is certainly a position that he is trying to put himself in at the moment. Do you think that is possible? Do you trust him in that position?”
President Ilves: “Well, you invade Ukraine, you bomb Syria, and then you bomb your way to the negotiating table. How can you be a peace negotiator if you are the one who initiated the entire problem in the first place? As I said, you become an unavoidable partner because you have created the problem, and then you say ‘I created a problem, now you have to talk to me’. I wouldn’t use the term ‘peace negotiator’ there.”
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