General Ants Laaneots looks east and worries.
TALLINN - A rise in Russia’s military operations in the Baltic Sea region is cause for concern among the Baltic States, Finland, Sweden and Poland, said Estonia’s military chief, reports AFP. “Russia has significantly increased its military presence in the western region [Baltic] and has created a new west strategic command that is - to believe its own military head - much more powerful than was the Leningrad military district,” General Ants Laaneots, head of Estonia’s defense forces, said in an interview on Estonia’s public ETV Web site last Friday.
“This is causing worries in Finland, Sweden, the Baltic States and Poland,” Laaneots said.
Indeed, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has approved a 65 billion dollar increase in military spending over the next three years, reports The Wall Street Journal.
This comes on top of military spending that is expected to be around 63 billion dollars, or about one-fifth of the overall budget this year, up smartly from its 42 billion dollar budget in 2010, reports upi.com.
Ex-communist Poland became a NATO member in 1999, while the three ex-Soviet Baltic States joined in 2004. Neutral Finland and Sweden remain outside the Western military alliance.
“Russia has carried out militarb exercises all summer. What has alarmed me quite a lot is that they strongly emphasize cooperation between various types of military forces and command staffs,” he observed.
“In August, they had 2,000 communication soldiers testing and practicing cooperation between their communication systems,” Laaneots added.
Hailing from ex-Soviet Estonia, Laaneots draws on decades of military experience in the Soviet army prior to Estonia’s independence in 1991.
Estonian Defense Minister Mart Laar noted that the increase of Russia’s military power has also been pointed out by Estonian researchers, but downplayed any Russian military threat. “I don’t believe Russia is at the moment a country that would attack anyone; Russia poses much more danger through its internal weaknesses, and threats like its Sosnovy Bor nuclear power plant in Leningrad Oblast,” Laar told Estonia’s commercial KUKU radio.