There is cause for optimism in the West about resisting Russia – but not too much, yet
TALLINN—This is the NATO capital closest to Mother Russia. Estonia is not, as Team Trump stalwart Newt Gingrich bizarrely put it last year, “in the suburbs of St. Petersburg,” yet it is undeniably too close to Russia for the comfort of many Estonians. Gingrich’s comment made Estonians – and plenty of other Europeans – wonder about the commitment of then-candidate Trump to NATO and collective security.
Those fears have been ameliorated somewhat by now-President Trump’s recent statement that NATO, which he only a few months ago derided as “obsolete,” is suddenly no longer so. Instead the Atlantic Alliance is now a “bulwark of international peace and stability,” according to Trump, who didn’t explain how NATO had miraculously changed so quickly. This is reassuring to our European partners, particularly the ones living close to Russia, yet puzzling all the same.
This sense of befuddlement was front and center at this year’s Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn, the preeminent security get-together in northern Europe. It attracts politicians, security practitioners, think-tank wonks, and journalists from all over the world. With the departure of the remarkable Toomas Ilves from Estonia’s presidency last fall after a decade in the job, there were questions about the conference’s future, given how strongly Ilves had sponsored the event, seeing it as an important anchor for his embattled little country in Western political and security structures.
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