There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks about defense.
Most recently, Atlanticist thought leaders from central and eastern Europe sent the American president a letter to voice some disappointment with NATO, reaffirm their belief in the benefits of transatlantic relations, and stress the need for the same contingency planning that older NATO members enjoy.
Signing on behalf of Estonia were Mart Laar and Kadri Liik, head of the International Center for Defense Studies in Tallinn. Other notable signatories were Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, and Vaira Vike-Freiberga.
It is right that Estonians would like to know exactly how NATO would fulfill its Article 5 duties to come to its aid in the event of a conflict. At the same time, I would personally like to know what kinds of security guarantees other small northern European NATO members like Norway, Denmark, and Iceland enjoy.
What would NATO do if the Russian Northern Fleet would anchor off Kirkenes and annex the city? How would NATO respond should the Baltic Fleet leave port at Kaliningrad and launch a blockade and invasion of Copenhagen? We treat such ideas as preposterous but, other than the nuclear option, what would be the response?
Lost in the shuffle here when talking about the CEE is that Estonia is the last stop on the central and eastern European highway (or lack thereof). There are two very large nations in our neighborhood, Sweden and Finland, both of which play significant roles in our economic, not to mention cultural lives. While we use their banks, buy their products, and talk on their telecommunication networks, it seems our security has been outsourced to Washington.
I have no doubt that there are strong links between the defense ministries in Tallinn, Stockholm, and Helsinki. A Nordic Battle Group has even been created under the auspisces of the EU. But I keep feeling that, if we are talking about Estonian security, it would be helpful to clarify what roles two of its largest and wealthiest neighbors would play in a given crisis. Until then, we will have an incomplete picture of how Estonia fits into the puzzle of northern European security.