Prime Minister: Estonia not spying on Trump

Andres Einmann
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Photo: Dmitri Kotjuh / Järva Teataja

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said, commenting on an article by Newsweek, that Estonia is definitely not spying on the Trump administration.

“Having conversed with people of corresponding agencies, I can plainly say Estonia is not spying on its allies. We greatly appreciate NATO cooperation,” Ratas (Center Party) said during yesterday's government press conference.

The PM added that a good signal of continued cooperation between the USA and NATO allies was US Defense Secretary James Mattis' recent meeting with NATO defense ministers.

“The meeting highlighted the contribution of Estonia as a NATO member. And we will maintain that contribution,” Ratas said. He added that Estonia also values mutual allied relations with the USA.

Minister of Internal Affairs Andres Anvelt (Social Democrat Party) added he has discussed Newsweek's claims with Director of the Estonian Internal Security Service Arnold Sinisalu and been told Estonia does not spy on its allies. Anvelt received similar confirmation from the Information Board in charge of foreign intelligence.

Anvelt recommended the agencies' yearbooks as keys to understanding Newsweek's hints. “The world is full of anxiety. The new administration has created a lot of groups interested in spreading false news. Our neighbor is also pondering which kind of tools to use to meddle in Estonia's affairs,” the interior minister said.

Former head of the internal security agency, Chairman of the Riigikogu Security Agencies Monitoring Select Committee Raivo Aeg (IRL) said he regards the article's claims unlikely.

“I seriously doubt there is any truth to them as the agency had an absolute rule not to spy on allies back in my day, and the USA is definitely a very strategic ally for Estonia,” Aeg told public broadcaster ERR. “We see information operations by the Russian Federation regularly; this is one part of that, attempts to sour things between partners,” he added.

Deputy Chancellor of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Erkki Koort told ERR radio news he does not believe the claims should be taken seriously.

“Estonia is definitely not spying on its allies. I do not hold this information to be credible in the least. These kinds of things tend to surface when they serve someone's interests. I suppose someone found it useful to feed this to the press,” he explained.

Is it possible Moscow is the source of these claims? “It is a possibility. Who would like to see Estonia alienated from its allies the most?”

Chairman of the Riigikogu Foreign Affairs Committee Marko Mihkelson (IRL) said that Newsweek's claim a Baltic country is gathering intelligence on US President Donald Trump could be a deliberate attempt at misinformation.

“This news sounds to me like deliberate misinformation,” Mihkelson wrote in social media on Thursday. “The goal could be to sow distrust between US and Baltic intelligence units, the ulterior goal of which could be to erode allied relations,” Mihkelson added. “I can assure whoever is planning this that it will not work.”

One Baltic country is collecting intelligence information on officials of the Trump administration and executives of Trump Organization because it is afraid a shift in the USA's Russia policy could endanger its sovereignty, Newsweek wrote citing government sources.

Intelligence operations in Western Europe began when the British government received information persons employed by Russia have been in contact with members of Trump's campaign staff. The Brits shared the data with other NATO members, after which one Baltic country allegedly started keeping tabs on heads of the Trump Organization during their visits to Europe, Newsweek wrote. This shows that faith in American policy has begun to crumble among its allies,” the news magazine concludes.

Claims were circulated in the US media in January of Estonian foreign intelligence having monitored a meeting between a representative of Donald Trump and a Russian State Duma member in Prague.