Stop Russia now to prevent a wider conflict, Estonia warns

Feb 15, 2023, 8:27 PM | Updated: Feb 16, 2023, 11:00 am
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, right, welcomes United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austi...

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, right, welcomes United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during their meeting at the Stenbock House in Tallinn, Estonia, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

              Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, left, and United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin shake hands during their meeting at the Stenbock House in Tallinn, Estonia, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
              Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, right, welcomes United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during their meeting at the Stenbock House in Tallinn, Estonia, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearing the one-year mark, a top Estonian defense leader warned that if Vladimir Putin is not stopped now, he could entangle the region in a larger conflict, perhaps one with even greater security implications for the U.S.

That’s because Russia has shown it will keep trying to retake territories that were once part of the Soviet Union and, so far, economic sanctions and its significant military losses in Ukraine have not changed Putin’s larger goals, said Kristjan Mäe, the head of the Estonian Ministry of Defense’s NATO and EU department, as U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited the Baltic nation on Thursday.

Estonia, which borders Russia, was forcefully incorporated into the Soviet Union during World War II and gained its independence only with the Soviet collapse in 1991. It joined NATO and the European Union in 2004.

“If we do not solve this war at this moment, where it is, first of all, there’s going to be a bigger war,” Mäe said.

And a larger war could have a significant impact on the United States’ larger security concerns with China, he said.

“If Europe is tied down with this war, then the European support, allied support politically, militarily to Indo-Pacific area is going to be limited as well, it’s going to be hampered,” he said. “So the primary focus, the short term focus should be defeating Russia where it is. This is the time. It’s not just the spring, but in general, this is the time to do this.”

The U.S. and allies have been pressing to get tanks and ammunition into Kyiv this spring to help Ukraine seize what is considered a critical moment in the war.

Austin’s visit to Estonia was also to offer reassurance. U.S. forces have been in constant rotation in Estonia since the invasion began as part of a commitment to defend NATO’s eastern flank.

At a news conference in Tallinn on Thursday, Austin was asked how Estonia could be sure it would have America’s protection if Russia presses through.

In response, Austin recalled his pre-invasion pledge to the Estonian defense minister: “I told him that if Russia invaded Ukraine, we would deploy forces to Estonia the next day. And we did. We were the first to be here. And we meant every word we said, and we’ll live up to our commitments going forward,” Austin said.

The pledges of military support both to the eastern flank and to Kyiv come as Ukraine is girding for what is expected to be an intense ground battle in the east and south to try to take back some of the territory seized by Russia, even as Russia amasses hundreds of thousands of troops inside Ukraine for the spring fight.

But many of the Western weapon systems that have been pledged, such as the Bradley fighting vehicles and Patriot missile defense systems, and scores of Leopard and Abrams tanks, are not yet on the battlefield, which has raised questions as to whether that aid will arrive in time to make a difference.

“It’s never too late,” Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said during the news conference with Austin. “When there’s a hope, and when there’s a last man standing, there is, there is a chance to win this war,” Pevkur said. “As long as we as international allies, international partners of Ukraine, can deliver them what they need.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


File - Credit cards as seen July 1, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. A low credit score can hurt your ability...
Associated Press

What the Fed rate increase means for your credit card bill

The Federal Reserve raised its key rate by another quarter point Wednesday, bringing it to the highest level in 15 years as part of an ongoing effort to ease inflation by making borrowing more expensive.
9 hours ago
police lights distracted drivers shooting...
Associated Press

Authorities: Missing mom, daughter in Washington found dead

A missing Washington state woman and her daughter were found dead Wednesday, according to police.
9 hours ago
Associated Press

Google’s artificially intelligent ‘Bard’ set for next stage

Google announced Tuesday it's allowing more people to interact with “ Bard,” the artificially intelligent chatbot the company is building to counter Microsoft's early lead in a pivotal battleground of technology.
1 day ago
Evelyn Knapp, a supporter of former President Donald, waves to passersby outside of Trump's Mar-a-L...
Associated Press

Trump legal woes force another moment of choosing for GOP

From the moment he rode down the Trump Tower escalator to announce his first presidential campaign, a searing question has hung over the Republican Party: Is this the moment to break from Donald Trump?
2 days ago
FILE - The Silicon Valley Bank logo is seen at an open branch in Pasadena, Calif., on March 13, 202...
Associated Press

Army of lobbyists helped water down banking regulations

It seemed like a good idea at the time: Red-state Democrats facing grim reelection prospects would join forces with Republicans to slash bank regulations — demonstrating a willingness to work with President Donald Trump while bucking many in their party.
2 days ago
FILE - This Sept. 2015, photo provided by NOAA Fisheries shows an aerial view of adult female South...
Associated Press

Researchers: Inbreeding a big problem for endangered orcas

People have taken many steps in recent decades to help the Pacific Northwest's endangered killer whales, which have long suffered from starvation, pollution and the legacy of having many of their number captured for display in marine parks.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Stop Russia now to prevent a wider conflict, Estonia warns