Visit draws much attention

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Photo: Mihkel Maripuu

US President Barack Obama’s Wednesday visit to Tallinn was covered by numerous international printed and online media. Underneath, find a selection of excerpts.

The Atlantic:

[A] direct message [in support of the Eastern-European members of NATO] came on in Tallinn, Estonia, in the sharpest language any U.S. president has used toward Russia since Ronald Reagan upbraided the Evil Empire. One by one, President Obama repudiated the lies Vladimir Putin has told about Ukraine: that the Ukrainians somehow provoked the invasion, that they are Nazis, that their freely elected government is somehow illegal. He rejected Russia’s claim that it has some sphere of influence in Ukraine, some right of veto over Ukrainian constitutional arrangements. And he forcefully assured Estonians—and all NATO’s new allies—that waging war on them meant waging war on the United States.

/.../ This is the ultimate commitment, given by the ultimate authority, in the very place where the commitment would be tested—and would have to be honored. There’s no turning back from that. Today, for the first time perhaps, Eastern Europeans have reason to believe it.

/.../ In Tallinn, President Obama gave the most important speech about European security—and issued the most important pledge—of the post-Cold War era.


When Barack Obama wants to be perceived a maker of big foreign policy, he flies to Europe. That’s what he did first in the summer of 2008 as in Berlin, in front of the Statue of Liberty, he painted a picture of his vision of a new free world. And thus is also was in Wednesday when, in a Tallinn concert hall, he tried to correct the impression as if he were too weak to lead this new free world.  /…/ In all Baltic States, there is a large Russian minority, especially so in Estonia. And there are the parallels with Eastern Ukraine. In the Tallinn concert hall, Mr Obama became poetic more than once. The famous Estonian poetess Marie Under, he cited, has once asked in a poem of hers: «Who’ll come to help us. Now, and at once?» According to Mr Obama, article five is the answer. /…/ For Mr Obama, just a moment before the NATO summit in Wales, to visit a land like Estonia, regarding many Americans do not know whether it is in Europe or South pacific, was not just to send a signal to Moscow. Also, he wants to remind the remaining 27 NATO members that they need to show greater dedication for the defence of fellow allies, and for the bridling of Mr Putin. 

New York Times:

Mr Obama also used his speech to call for military aid to Ukrainian troops. Though he did not say the US will send arms – a step demanded by some US legislators and even some of his own advisers –, Mr Obama did say that NATO ought to help. /…/ The President’s speech was a part of the visit to show solidarity to aggravated allies and especially to calm NATO’s more recent members and those bordering with Russia in that the USA and Europe mean business defending them from the newly aggressive neighbour.  

Washington Post:

In a speech to at the Nordea Concert Hall here Wednesday, Obama lambasted the actions of Russia and separatists in Ukraine that «evoke dark tactics from Europe’s past that ought to be consigned to history,» including the shooting down of a passenger airliner in July and «violence that seems intractable.»

And he urged the young people of Estonia to reject pessimism.

/…/ The mere presence of Mr Obama at the doorstep of Russia came as sharp criticism towards Mr Putin, and Mr Obama repeatedly reprimanded Russia and its leader. /…/ The chief aim for the trip right before NATO summit in Wales was to underline the obligation of NATO of collective defence as stated in article five.

Helsingin Sanomat:

During his Wednesday visit to Tallinn, the US President Barack Obama said several things the Estonians increasingly have wanted to hear as the Ukrainian crisis keeps intensifying. /…/ Mr Obama gave material promises to guarantee Baltic security. /.../ One of their wishes Estonians failed to hear. Mr Obama did not propose that Estonia have a permanent NATO base – one which Estonia wishes for. «Makes no difference how it is called. Makes no difference what is the colour of the cat, as long as it catches mice,» said Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet, after Mr Obama’s speck in Nordea concert hall.

Svenska Dagbladet:

Since NATO was created in 1949, its main task pursuant to article five is collective defence. The security guarantee may be captured by «one for all, and all for one». But the «new NATO» felt so secure it even failed to compile part of the defence plans for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania which joined in 2004. The Baltic States’ warnings regarding Putin’s Russia were viewed as «alarming» by the great powers at NATO. But now article five is nothing but must important, concluded the US President Barack Obama while in Estonia – to boost the Baltic sense of security and to warn Russia against adventurism.


The US President presented the fight with Russia as a long-term battle resembling the fight against the Soviet occupation during the Cold War, saying that Estonia and other East-European nations ought to serve as examples for Ukraine.


The United States will increase their presence in the Baltics. This was uttered [on Wednesday] by the American president Barack Obama, on his visit to Tallinn. He also made clear that the Russia-NATO base agreement which, among other things, forbids permanent allied troops in the Baltics, may be reviewed. According to experts, even if Washington will finally decide to take that step, it will probably not receive the needed support of all allies.


This is not the first time that US Air Force units will be placed in East-European territory, notes Eurasia communication centre head Aleksei Pilko, according to whom military transport planes are constantly present there, while American fighters are constantly landing in Poland, Hungary, and Romania. The establishment of a permanent air base in Estonia, says the expert, is much more serious. «This endangers Russia’s second biggest city – St Petersburg – and this can only be compared to Soviet missiles placed on Cuba in 1962. If the base is established, this is a military challenge to Russia.»

Le Monde:

In the Estonian capital Tallinn, the American president, in the presence of three Baltic heads of state, accused Moscow in a brazen attack against Ukraine and in redrawing borders at the threat of guns. /…/ The audience gathered in the Tallinn concert hall gave Mr Obama standing ovations. Every warning of his towards Russia was greeted by an applause, as the Ukrainian tragedy has re-awakened painful memories in a nation which, using Mr Obama’s expression, is again faced with Moscow’s «unbridled nationalism».