Estonians think the world has become more unstable - poll

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Estonians perceive the world around them as less stable and many fear flare-up of new armed conflicts, it appears from a recent public opinion poll on national security.

Even 71 percent of Estonia's residents believe that global instability will increase and the probability of armed conflicts will grow in the coming decade, the survey conducted in October showed. Only 7 percent of respondents said they believe the world will become a safer place in years ahead, the Defense Ministry said.

Estonia's situation was perceived as more positive than the global situation as a whole. Some 31 percent of the polled think the situation here will not change and equally 31 percent foresee growth of instability. In the opinion of 23 percent life will be safer in Estonia 10 years hence.

Basing on poll results, Estonians' perception of threat as regards global developments has steadily increased since the first surveys 15 years ago. In June 2001 only 25 percent of the polled considered future instability likely, whereas since the fall of 2013 at least a half of Estonians have regarded the emergence of new conflicts as probable.

With regard to global security risks, ethnic Estonians are more sensitive to threat than Russian-speaking respondents, with respectively 76 percent and 58 percent believing the situation will deteriorate. Ethnic Estonians also have a darker view of the future of their country than Russian-speakers.

Even 92 percent of respondents named terrorist networks and 90 percent, the activity of Islamic State as the biggest threats to peace and global security. Organized crime was considered a threat by 83 percent, economic crisis by 81 percent and armed conflict in Ukraine by 80 percent.

Of threats to Estonia, 69 percent of the polled considered a cyber attack against the country's information systems as the most probable, 61 percent named some foreign country's interference in Estonian politics or the economy, and 50 percent mentioned extensive marine pollution.

A military attack was considered possible by 26 percent and unlikely by 67 percent of the polled.

Defense Minister Hannes Hanso said the people's concern about global security is understandable. «NATO allies are these days faced with serious challenges from both the east where there's an aggressive Russia and the south with continued instability in the Middle East,» he said. «But NATO has the capability to pay sufficient attention to both directions.»

«Public opinion is always strongly connected with what media channels are saying and writing,» said sociologist Juhan Kivirahk from Turu-uuringute AS pollsters that carried out the survey. «People perceive world threats through the prism of media. At the time the survey was taken, there was in the media less talk about the Ukrainian conflict whereas matters related to Islamic State and terrorism were strongly to the fore in both the international media picture and domestic policy debates. The rise to the fore of these two themes probably helps to explain why Estonian security-related public attention shifted from the so-called Russian threat that was prominent in previous surveys to the refugee crisis.»

The survey was commissioned by the Defense Ministry and conducted by Turu-uuringute AS in October.