It goes like this. Officially, NATO does not see Russia as a threat. But if the alliance has drawn up new contingency plans in case of a potential Russian attack on its members, then it does see it as a threat. Or maybe not. Here's Estonian Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo to explain:
Commenting on the US Tallinn Embassy cables published by Wikileaks, Minister of Defense Jaak Aaviksoo said neither Estonia nor NATO have reason to consider Russia an enemy. Speaking on ERR radio, Aaviksoo said that drafting plans was a natural part of all defense endeavors. (courtesy ERR)
It's just natural to prepare for an possible attack, even if your neighbor officially poses no threat, though they recently held war games on their side of the border simulating the seizure of your country, right? Well, the Russians are naturally offended by the mere idea that there would be plans to defend Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania from an attack. Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's ambassador to NATO, said that Moscow "must get some assurances that such plans will be dropped, and that Russia is not an enemy for NATO."
What infuriates me about this is how everyone has to tiptoe around Moscow. "Ok, Baltic States, we'll give you your contingency plans, but you must promise not to talk about it." Best not to offend the Russians. They are nuclear armed and unpredictable. We wouldn't want to actually let on that should Russia attack NATO member states, such actions might compel the alliance to come to their defense!
It appears that Russia still has a bit of a Baltic problem. According to their foreign policy, they have a "privileged interest" in the post-Soviet space. As the Baltic countries were once (unwilling) parts of the Soviet Union, that would seem to consign them to Russia's sphere of influence. However, the Baltic countries have joined the alliances of the West and therefore cannot be considered part of such a privileged sphere. I mean, Estonia will adopt the euro in a matter of weeks. Could it get any more obvious? They have left the "post-Soviet space," which would behoove Moscow to treat them like other European countries in the region, Finland, Sweden, and more recently, Poland.
On many levels, Estonian-Russian relations are just as normal as in those other countries. Russian tourists visit Estonia in droves. Cultural relations are humming along. Business relations tend to be good, when the politicians don't screw things up. But that's just it. The key obstacle to improvements in relations is political. A Russian foreign minister has not visited Estonia in the past 19 years! The Russian elite apparently cannot find the will to normalize relations, and yet they demonstrate mock outrage when "secret" contingency plans to defend the Baltic countries are published.
It's almost as if the Russians prefer to use the Baltics as a stumbling block in their relations with NATO.