Arnold Sinisalu knows me. We worked closely with special services at the time. Another Estonian who knows me is Tarmo Kõuts. He was head of the boarder guard at the time. He knows me well and has a great sense of humor. A very nice person.
I still work with Jaanus Rahumägi today. We met 20 years ago, when he was advisor to the interior minister. We’re good friends.
How often do you visit Estonia? When were you last here?
I don’t visit that often anymore; the last time was a couple of years ago.
President Donald Trump appointed you a member of his intelligence council. Have you talked to the president about Estonia?
I don’t know our president; I’ve never met him. We were both in Finland for the summit; also in Hanoi and Singapore. But I speak my mind when I’m on television. He finds that… well, it’s something he agrees and at times doesn’t agree with I suppose. But I was an intelligence officer, and it is our sworn duty to talk about our work frankly, no matter who is listening.
You said you’ve never met with Trump, yet you will be working for him.
Well yes, to a degree. I’m in the intelligence council, but it is not a big deal. The council gives advice, okay, but it is not that important. If the president wants advice, he will ask John Bolton (Trump’s security adviser – ed.) or others. They have their role. The role of the intelligence council is not that significant I would say. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you what we do.
How can you make use of knowledge of Estonia in your new job?
I talk to a lot of people about Estonia. There are not many US officials who have worked in Estonia, speak the language and have also lived in Russia and Finland. I lived in the region for almost a decade. So yes, I speak with American officials and some of them ask me about Estonia and Russia.
How closely do you still follow Estonian politics?
A little. But not as closely as when I lived in Moscow or Estonia. We don’t talk about Estonia on Fox for example.
Kersti Kaljulaid’s meeting with Vladimir Putin has been criticized because the Baltic countries have not had high-level contacts with Russia since the occupation of Crimea and the Georgia conflict. Our president has said that communication is necessary so as not to find yourself on the menu. In your opinion, was it a sensible move?