Luik: Lavrov’s hints were quite brutal

Jüri Luik esines Müncheni julgeolekukonverentsi avaarutelul, mille teemaks oli kaitsekoostöö ELis ja NATOs.

PHOTO: Müncheni julgeolekukonverents

It hardly gained him any friends, said Minister of Defense Jüri Luik when commenting on Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s hints at rehabilitation of Nazism at the Munich Security Conference.

Can anything be done based on Theresa May’s speech on the EU-NATO level, or was it just another attempt by the Brits to have a deal with the EU before taking the steps the UK is required to take?

This thing needs to be seen in two parts. On the one hand, everything that has to do with NATO is very clear. The United Kingdom will continue as a full member, and their battalion in Estonia is perhaps the best sign of their activity.

The security relationship we have in the EU is largely based on domestic security topics, like terrorism or the fight against cybercrime. The Brits have immense resources in those fields, and many [of the EU’s] systems have been developed with help from or by the Brits. It is no coincidence the EU’s internal security commissioner Julian King is from the UK.

May proposed protecting security topics from the rest of negotiations to a certain degree –no doubt talks on customs relations, European court, migration will be very tense.

It is very difficult for me to say whether that is technically or legally possible. However, I believe it would be in Estonia’s interests to get behind the principle that we will not reduce security to horse trading but will instead try to keep the matter as separate as possible as it is fully in our own interests and those of the UK.

Did Sergey Lavrov say anything we haven’t heard before?

To be honest, it was all quite routine. I’ve seen Lavrov in many different contexts – he lacked the fire he often demonstrates. Of course, he defended all of President Putin’s foreign policy positions, but there were no surprises.

Perhaps the Germans were caught off guard by some of the expressions he used. Because the conference took place in Munich, he used it (how the Third Reich and WWII began in Munich – ed.) and talked about giving way to fascism etc. It was a relatively brutal allusion, and I doubt it gained him many friends.

Perhaps the most interesting part in Lavrov’s speech concerned building a new security architecture in the Middle East. It is the most acute problem at this time. It involves the Russians, Americans, Turkish, Saudis, Israelis, and it will definitely continue to shape global security for a time to come.

Unfortunately, Lavrov still remained vague in his statements; for example, that we shouldn’t draw a line between religious groups, like the Sunni and Shia. Whereas the Russian Federation has been doing just that by basically creating a Shia coalition out of Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah.

There was nothing groundbreakingly new, but it was clearly something Russia is interested in and that Lavrov likely deals with on a daily basis.

We had representatives from Turkey and the USA speak at the conference. Can we see those two looking for a solution to their conflicting interests in Syria?

It seems that we are nearing an imaginary line Turkey’s operation Olive Branch won’t cross as the country does not want to find itself in a direct military conflict with the US.

Of course, a situation where two NATO countries would find themselves face to face in such a manner was politically, diplomatically, and militarily impossible only a short while ago. The possibility of miscalculation is very high in a live military situation where different groups on either side of a hill are bombarding each other so to speak.

The Americans would like to diffuse the issue. As would the Turkish. However, their respective ways of going about it are diametrically different. And no participant left me with the impression a good solution exists at this time.

Is anyone in NATO on Turkey’s side? For example, Germany has basically done the same thing as the US in Syria.

I would not characterize the situation as one where it would be necessary to choose sides. Every NATO member is on their own side in various ways.

Turkey has promised – and did during the defense ministers’ meeting (on Wednesday – ed.) – to inform NATO members of their activities and movements. The Turkish minister spoke about the mission in great detail.

The entire thing is tied to creating a new order, or semblance of any kind of order for that matter, in Syria on the one hand, and the question of the Kurds on the other. These are very complicated matters. The latter issue is absolutely ancient, and we do not have reason to hope for a quick breakthrough there.

Translation by BNS.