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War in Ukraine - the threat to the Baltic states

NATO needs to come up with a solution which deals with the current threat from Russia and has the potential to defend and reinforce its Eastern flank, urge committee chairs from Latvia and Estonia.

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Rihards Kols, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Latvian Parliament, and Marko Mihkelson, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Estonian Parliament, join host Tom Tugendhat MP to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine through the eyes of the Baltic states.

They’re joined by Tobias Ellwood MP, Chair of the House of Commons Defence Committee, who talks about the “huge wake-up” the invasion of Ukraine is for European security.

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Tom Tugendhat: Welcome to Committee Corridor, where Parliamentary Select Committees go about the business of asking the tough questions that need to be asked, holding Her Majesty's Government to account, but also investigating the questions that are prominent today. 

The Committee Corridor is a real place. It runs the length of the Palace of Westminster, all the way from the Lords down to the end of the Commons. Open any door and you'll find MPs and, of course, some lords working across political parties to learn from experts and practitioners. We want to know where the government's policies are working, where they're not, and where things can be done better. 

I'm Tom Tugendhat. I chair the Foreign Affairs Committee. And today, we are returning to the war in Ukraine. This time, though, through the eyes of the Baltic states as well, of course, of our own. 

Latvia and Estonia are two fellow NATO members that sit on the border with Russia. We'll be discussing their security concerns following the invasion of Ukraine, NATO's response to the crisis, and what the coming months may bring for the Baltic region and for Europe. 

In a moment, I'm going to be talking to the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Estonia, Marko Mikhelson. And he's going to be joined by Tobias Ellwood, who is the chair of the UK Defence Committee and conservative MP for Bournemouth East.

But first, I'm pleased to be joined by Rihards Kols, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Latvian Parliament.

Welcome to Committee Corridor.

 

Rihards, thank you very much for joining us. There are reports that the Russian Duma is discussing repealing Russia's recognition of Latvia's independence. Now, as well as Estonia and Lithuania and Ukraine, that would be an extraordinary reversal of post-Soviet Russian policy. What's your response to these claims, and do you see this as a major step-up in Russia's provocation of Baltic countries?

Rihards Kols: Well, it is. It comes with no surprise. I mean, constantly, since we regained our independence in the nineties, all three Baltic countries have experienced this kind of rhetorical bullying from Russian politicians, particularly in Russian Duma. And, you know, ironically, I could say that this kind of statements and remarks—because I haven't heard that, you know, certain legislation have been submitted—it's a rhetoric that is coming from certain MPs in Russian Duma. And I think, you know—. We know that, not that recently, one prominent politician of Russian Duma passed away. And I think the world became a better place. And that's Vladimir Zhirinovsky. And I think, you know, somebody is just trying to fill in his shoes and maybe take a credit and use this kind of slur, you know, rhetorics and announcements. So, therefore, I mean, that obviously have to be regarded. And, of course, it has to be counter, you know, argued, and not to go into depth about that.

So, the revisionism as we see is still topical for Russia in so many different ways. And, you know, the plans in the way as well. So, we're not taking this as, you know, something with great concern. And then, well, if they do, okay. They easily recognise occupied territories as independent countries and et cetera. And, you know, it not necessarily mean the international community is on the same page with them. 

Tom Tugendhat: Well, you can be certain that we're not going to recognise any claims against that. You can be absolutely certain of that. 

Rihards Kols: Yeah. We stick with the same part of the world, so. But, of course, those are provocative announcements, and we should not be surprised. But I will not say that that should instantly raise some dramatic alarms. 

Tom Tugendhat: And so, I mean, it does really make it very clear how sensible your government was all those years ago to join NATO alongside Estonia and Lithuania. And now, of course, the talk is of NATO membership for Sweden and Finland, which I personally welcome enormously. But what difference do you think that will make to your security and to the security of other Baltic countries? 

Rihards Kols: It's of a massive importance. We've been advocating on different levels for years—for years—with our Swedish colleagues, Finnish colleagues as well, on the membership. Whenever I met my MPs, colleagues, I said, "When? When is the day? When are you going to submit? Because we're ready to support it." 

But if we're looking in real-time, you know, terms, we see that the Sweden and Finland already cooperates with NATO ninety-five percent. On the level of ninety-five percent. The corporation is there. Of course, for them becoming a full-fledged member state of NATO, that absolutely gives a much more robust security dimension in the Baltic region, in the Baltic Sea region. No wonder that someone in these days, when Sweden and Finland submitted the application, stated that it's no more the Baltic Sea. It's a NATO Sea. 

So, this is important. 

Tom Tugendhat: So, in your view, is the diplomacy that we've seen between Western countries directly with Russia, directly with President Putin over issues like unblocking Ukrainian ports and food security, is that appropriate or do you think that's bringing him into a conversation that, frankly, he shouldn't be part of? 

Rihards Kols: I mean, it is clear you cannot have a dialogue or, you know, a proper mutually respectful discussion with a tyrant, with a war criminal. I mean, it's the numerous countries that have recognised the atrocities the Russian army is conducting on Ukrainian soil as war crimes. As genocide in the case of Latvia as well. And in this time to say that we have to still, no matter what, sit down and talk to this tyrant. 

Again, we tried that since beginning of December, when Russia put forward the ultimatums. We actually—. Honestly, the West, was willing to engage and talk. In the end, well, we saw actually all that was pre-staged. He knew already that he will launch a full-scale attack on Ukraine no matter what, you know, ultimatums we would met or fulfil and et cetera. Make or any concessions. So, therefore, right now, with the talks on grain, it should be done between Ukraine and Russia on terms only for them to be determined. 

So, therefore, I know the international community is working and trying to find ways how to get grain out of Ukraine. And it's not necessarily always all the options are only when Russia is involved. There are other options as well. And we should, you know, move more focus on those options or other than, you know, trying to find ways to convince Russia. I don't think it's a very plausible thing to do. 

Tom Tugendhat: Well, you've also—. You just touched on it now. You've also declared—. I think, in April, Latvia declared that it was a genocide in Ukraine and that the war was of that level of brutality. What was the rationale behind the decision, and what do you think of the practical implications of making such a strong statement not just today, but actually over coming years?

Rihards Kols: Well, you see, we have suffered from the same aggressor. We, I mean, the Latvian, as a country, in the past, in the twentieth century, by the Soviet Union, and, you know, as Russia or Russian Federation has claimed they're the successor of the Soviet Union. 

And what we see the Russian army in Ukraine in the first days, in the first weeks, the information coming out of Ukraine, the atrocities they are committing against the civilians, particularly targeting civilians, it doesn't much, you know, differ from how the Red Army and Soviet Army conducted their atrocities on our soil during the Second World War and committed also the crimes. The difference is, at that time, after the Second World War, nobody was taken to the trial from the Soviet Army and Red Army. 

And here, we saw the first reports when, apparently, Russia was really suffering huge losses and starting to pull back their troops and, of course, claiming that is a good faith kind of signal to create these green corridors and et cetera and to make, you know, a feasible way for the talks.

But what we saw when the Russian troops withdraw from the occupied territories in Ukraine after the 24th of February, the huge atrocities, the war crimes they have committed in Bucha, in April. I mean, the whole world saw that. 

And on top of that, what we see Russia is also violating, I mean, numerous, numerous international laws. And they are deporting, forcibly deporting Ukrainians, not only ethnic Ukrainians, but Ukrainians by nationality, to the far east of Russia.

Again, I mean, we have still very fresh memory on that despite it has been – albeit it has been more than sixty years. The huge deportations of Latvians to Siberia. And when we regained our independence, we adopted the resolution on the Latvia's occupation where we see the deportations since 1941 and 1949 conducted by the Soviet Union as a genocide. 

So, therefore, it is our moral duty to recognise these atrocities, these actions that Russia is conducting in Ukraine as a genocide. Yes, there will be those who will argue that it's only by court to be decided if that has been a genocide or not. But, you see, there's UN Charter as well that stipulates that UN member states, if they witness even slight indications that there is a genocide being conducted, we have to do utmost we can to stop it. So, therefore, I'm pleased that the Baltic countries have done that. Canada has done that as well. Recognised it. And this is, you know—. 

The signal we should send also to Russia and the Russian army: No matter how long the time will go, you will be punished for your crimes that you have committed. So, the principle of not avoiding the punishment has to be adapted. And, therefore, we also call for international tribunal to be adapted as well. 

Tom Tugendhat: Well, look, I think you make a very powerful point that this is horrible echoes of your own experience and, of course, of Lithuania's and Estonia's experience during the occupation, during the Soviet occupation. 

Can I just ask, though, about our own preparedness? Because, of course, a lot has been made of the fact that the West (the United Kingdom, the United States) has been relatively quick to respond to Ukrainian's need for assistance, both in terms of military technology, but also in terms of intelligence. What do you think are the lessons for us about European security preparedness and the structures that we've built over the years (some NATO, some others) in making sure that we are able to answer the challenges, the aggression that Putin has thrown at us? And do you think that Europe and the United States are sharing intelligence well enough to make sure that we are ready to face these aggressions ever again?

Rihards Kols: What's happening in Ukraine and before the 24th of February, there was, for the first time, actually, very directly, publicly indicated what info the intelligence community in the US is having on the potential Russian plans and really publicly confronted Russia. And we see that didn't play. But it played when it came to the Western countries as well. 

I mean, I do not doubt the capabilities of our intelligence services. The cooperation, I wish would be much, you know, stronger and then closer. There has been divisions in the past. You know, sharing the intelligence that has led to terrorist attacks on the European continent that could have been avoided if the intelligence community within the NATO and EU would more actively cooperate with each other. 

So, therefore, the security dimension, yes, after 2014 and 2016 summit as well, there has been a lot of stepping up, reinforcing the eastern flank. But what we're seeing right now, for the past two years, the decisions made in 2016 are not anymore playing as a deterrent. It's not enough. I mean, the masses of troops that Russia is concentrating on the eastern flank is totally, you know, outnumbering what we are having on our side. So, therefore, there is a urgent need to reinforce the eastern flank. The Baltic countries as well. 

And what we are seeing and, of course, we, all of us, we are closely following how Russia is conducting its war in Ukraine. What are the strengths? What are the weaknesses? And we obviously see that the air defence, in case of Ukraine, is vulnerability, number one. And well, I'll not lie. That is the same case when it comes to the Baltic countries. We don't have proper air defence systems. None at all. Not at all. So, therefore, this is something where, immediately, NATO needs to put their heads together and they come up with a solution that's at least for the medium term to really abolish these kind of threats and have the potential to defend. 

So, therefore, of course, the sides. And, you know, we have the battle group station, as you mentioned, UK is covering. A framework country for Estonia. Latvia is being taken care by Canada. Also good friends. And Lithuania, by Germany. In this scenario, we see that the security dimensions have dramatically changed, because it's not only Russia that is conducting a war in Ukraine. The accomplice is Belarus. And as the Western world has decided, in a way of assessing the falsified elections or stolen elections in 2020. You know, illegitimate president Lukashenko. He has—. In our view, from our point of view, Belarus is no more a sovereign state. It's already absolutely dependent on Russia in so many ways. I mean, military-wise, a hundred percent. So, therefore, the Russian troops on the Belarus soil, having potential military permanent basis and so on, that is, again, a totally new security dimension for us. 

Tom Tugendhat: When we were talking last, there were two NATO meetings coming up. Then, we recently had the one in Bucharest or, I think, a few months back. Is there more that you were hoping out of those meetings? Because as we look towards Madrid, I mean, clearly the focus is on the membership of Sweden and Finland, which we hope will go through. I know there are obstacles, but we hope it will go through pretty soon. 

But it can't just be that. It really does have to be a focus on realising that we cannot allow even one town in Latvia to be occupied by a barbarous army like the Russian army today. 

Rihards Kols: Absolutely. I mean, you know, we have this famous saying by President Biden. Not an inch of NATO soil will be taken. It will be protected. 

You know, for Latvians, inch is already too much. You know? We have, you know, metric system. So, we're talking millimetres. Inch is way too much already.

So—. But no, in all seriousness. So, the Bucharest line, of course. So, we are the frontier for NATO external border. The reinforcements, I mean. We do welcome the creation of the Bel Groups in Romania and Slovakia as well. And obviously, that is needed to be done. But we have to speak on the physical threats that are really near at our borders and reinforcements.

And I think it is a point where we have to speak about burden sharing within NATO. I mean, Latvia and the Baltic countries, if I'm not mistaken, we have already decided to increase our defence expenditures up to two-point-five percent from our GDP. And, you know, I told you already, in the short-term, the necessities that we need: air defence systems. And you know better than all. Those are costly things. Very costly. Even if we combined the whole Baltic countries' defence budget, we could not afford, you know, a proper system set in place. So, therefore, I think it's time also to speak within the NATO as well of burden sharing. 

We have certain member states that, you know, they're not in frontier and, you know, their army, maybe size of four hundred troops in the army. But, again, if they are really applying to this two percent from the GDP, that [sum requirement] [00:18:040] can be also attributed to strengthen the defence capabilities on the eastern flank as well. 

Tom Tugendhat: There's no more role more important than defending your country. And you know that you have very, very strong allies here in the United Kingdom. 

Rihards, thank you very much for joining me. 

Rihards Kols: Well, thank you, Tom. Thank you.

 

Tom Tugendhat: I'm now joined by Marko Mihkelson, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Estonian Parliament, and my friend and fellow Select Committee Chair, Tobias Ellwood. He's a conservative MP for Bournemouth East and chairs the Defence Committee. 

Marko, what has been the response of the Estonian people to the Russian reinvasion of Ukraine? How has your politics been affected by this wanton act of aggression? 

Marko Mihkelson: Actually, to be honest and frank, we started to support heavily Ukraine already eight, nine years ago. Then, Russia started actually the invasion against Ukraine with occupying and annexing the Crimea and then, later on, starting the war and invasion in eastern Ukraine. 

But after Putin mounted a new threat against Ukraine already last year, our policy was very clear and straightforward and shared politically, but also very strongly within the society as well. So, we were ready already at the end of last year to supply additional weaponry or help to Ukraine, because, for us, it was clear that Putin is going to invade or reinvade Ukraine and Ukraine needs strong help from allies, partners. 

From the West, there's very clear and general understanding that a threat posed by Russia and a war launched against Ukraine is a war against all of us and we have to commonly fight back. 

Tom Tugendhat: Now, Tobias, I know that you know a lot of the work that we've been doing has been on foreign affairs, but the reality is the overlap between our two committees here is enormous. I was wondering, though, if you could look at the defence perspective and tell us: How do you see the Russia-Ukraine crisis, and how do you rate our government's response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, and what conclusions have you already drawn about the UK's defence policy?

Tobias Ellwood: Well, Tom, for thanks for including me. And, Marko, great to see you. 

I was recently at the Lennart Meri Security Conference, and it's only when you go to the Baltics do you really feel a very different sense of security concerns than perhaps we enjoy over here. And this is the big question that you ask, Tom. I remember you and I gave some pretty big speeches in the summer when we departed from Afghanistan. And I made the case there after, you know, your very powerful speech where I suggested that this was, perhaps, the tipping point, the high tide mark of Western liberalism after the Second World War. We've enjoyed thirty years of relative peace. Since the last Cold War, we've become a little risk averse. And I think what we're seeing with Russia is a huge wake-up call, a real shake-up on European security. 

Don't forget we've got China that's supporting Russia there. Putin has been clever in working out what to do, probably surprised by the scale of response by the Ukrainians. But he probably got it right, the fact that the West remains rather hesitant to really go toe-to-toe with Russia for all the reasons that, no doubt, we're going to discuss. 

It's so important that we ensure, that we encourage and support Ukraine to make sure that they can win rather than just stop them from losing. 

Tom Tugendhat: Now, of course, in those early days, the UK was able to deploy anti-tank weapons very quickly. Those NLAWs went in just before the Russians attacked. How have you been assessing the UK's defence contribution to this conflict? 

Tobias Ellwood: I think Britain's excelled itself. But we must recognise that our relationship with Ukraine goes back to 2014. This isn't just a one-off event that Russia is involved in now. There's actually a conveyor belt of events that are taking place, going back to Georgia, then to the Crimea and, of course, Donbas as well. This is what Putin does. And I was pleased to see us get involved early on. What we've done is turn the tap on even further to actually provide ever greater, you know, quality and quantity of weapon systems. And that's really good to see. 

I would love to see our NATO friends match the same commitment that we are doing in Britain. 

Tom Tugendhat: That raises, of course, interesting questions, because, of course, the pattern doesn't just echo itself in the south as you've just identified. But Russia, and President Putin in particular, has made claims to protect, only in the sense of a mafia don protecting, of course, but to protect the Russian-speaking populations in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. And, of course, in Estonia, I think it's about a quarter of the population is ethnically Russian. Are there fears in Estonia that these people could be exploited by President Putin? Are you seeing a rise in disinformation campaigns? Marko, you've spoken out very clearly against Russian psy-ops as it were (psychological operations) in the past. How are you seeing it today? 

Marko Mihkelson: Actually, to be frank, it's nothing. This is nothing new for us. And, you know, as a journalist in mid-nineties, and I worked as a Moscow correspondent and also covered the First Chechen War, you know, sometimes, I think that that time, Russians' rhetoric against the Baltic states was much more emotional and threatening, because, remember, we weren't—. That time, the members of NATO, they threatened us to occupy. They threatened us to kill. They threatened us to send all the nation and population out of Estonia and other bordering nations to Siberia, so. 

And this is why, actually, we are, today, as nation and society, more resilient, seeing what's coming from Russia. Because, unfortunately, you know, my own personal experience from Chechnya, from '95 and '96, when I saw what Russians did with their own citizens, Chechens. They demolished the centre of Grozny, the same size of town like Mariupol, to the, you know, thousands. Tens of thousands people were perished that time. And that was the signal, at least to me already that time—and nobody knew even about Putin—that Russia is unfortunately going after their imperial ambitions or try to restore somehow glory of old Russian Empire. 

Unfortunately, failure of us collectively, the Western nations, to understand the seriousness and the long-term strategy kind of embedded, or, you know, like I say, the deeply-embedded in their DNA will and desire for an empire. This is what we hear from, you know, latest statements of Putin. And he said that he wants to be more in time Peter the Great. 

But saying that, I think that the response of our nations (Estonia, UK)—. In Estonia, by the way, we are very, very thankful what your government has done, both reassuring us as a bordering nation to Russia and a ally within NATO and the British troops. And the presence in Estonia is remarkable and very well welcomed by our people. But also your leadership and very clear positioning in terms of what we should do as allies, democratic allies, fighting back this Russian aggression.

Tom Tugendhat: Is there more that we should be doing, Tobias? Because we've looked at the response to Ukraine. In many ways, it's bilateral. Yes, I know we're all NATO countries. But, actually, NATO has not been the enabling organisation. It's been bilateral aid to Ukraine. Do you think this should be a NATO operation or do you think, as many have argued, this should be a bilateral operation, because making into a NATO one would be to fall into Putin's propaganda?

Tobias Ellwood: You have the most formidable, potent military alliance ever assembled across the world in our history, and yet it's not leaning in to support Ukraine. There's a fire in Ukraine, and NATO will not put it out. And the big question is whether that fire is going to get worse. And, eventually, NATO will have a bigger fire to deal with. And that's the question that we have to ask ourselves. 

Unfortunately, the way it works at the moment, it's done by consensus. Therefore, there's the ability of two or three nations able to prevent NATO's formally engaging and going toe-to-toe with Russia. 

Now, you say, would that be, you know, provoking Russia itself? But let's not forget that Russia is doing the provoking. Russia did the invading in a European democracy. And arguably, you could see why the Ukrainians are frustrated to be on NATO's doorstep and not see the military might be greatly utilised to put this particular fire out. So, that then begs the question that you've implied as to whether there should be a coalition of the willing. Maybe, you know, a part of NATO that can better coordinate our activities to support the Ukrainian people.

But I just row back a bit to what Marko was saying. Because we've not asked that more fundamental question: Where is Russia going with all this in the longer term? Now, we have—. Our prism is often through—. Our timeline is through election cycles. Sometimes, even news cycles. That's about as far as ahead in the future that we look at. But we know that Russia and China think on, you know, a different scale. That if you can do something better in three- or four-years' time than you can today, we'll absolutely wait. And if what Russia, or Putin specifically, has worked out, that this is going to be China's century, that authoritarianism is actually on the rise, that the West itself is no longer able to police the international rules-based order, then I believe he's made the calculation after Afghanistan—you know, going back to where we retreated from there, handing that back to the very insurgency that we went into defeat—to make his mark, as Marko was saying, to actually go back and try and spread his influence across the Slavic section of Europe, knowing that he and China has got its back. And that is the big challenge for us to wake up to. That is the big geopolitical or geostrategic challenge that we need to embrace ourselves. 

Tom Tugendhat: Now, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas of Estonia has said that NATO needs war fighting capabilities and permanent bases in Estonia, which she's also spoken about having them in other Baltic states. Do you think this true presence, this increased true presence—'cause, of course, there is already a British permanent presence in Estonia—do you think that would be helpful or do you think it would be seen by Russia as aggressive? How do you view it, Marko? 

Marko Mihkelson: Absolutely not. Of course, we have to make sure with our both political statements, but also, most importantly, what we do in order to bolster deterrence measures.  We are more or less happy in terms of presence, numbers. Of course, we would like to see a little bit more, but those are already details. And most important, what we're looking forward, of course, is that everything what we build up in Estonia or in other Baltic states as well, they have to be combat-ready, they have to be seen by Russian strategists or for, you know, Putin himself that any attempt to test Article 5 in our region is going to be catastrophic for attacker.

But, you know, all those talks about what provokes, what doesn't provoke Putin, let please forget about that, because whatever we do, they find the ways to launch their own sort of activities. 

And I think, what also Toby has said, that this has been a general wake-up call for all of us. And also today, what has happened in Ukraine and the Russia's war, heavy, brutal, genocidal war in the middle of Europe today, in twenty-first century, we have to understand that this is the point where we have to finally become proactive, put together a strategy, which really leads us to the strategic defeat of Russia in this war. 

Tom Tugendhat: Can I ask, Tobias, because this is already now four months into what looks to be increasingly a drawn-out conflict? I mean, one of the concerns that people have raised is war fatigue. And, of course, the immediate one is the one that we're seeing in the news. It's less widely covered. It's not gone away, but it's less widely covered. And then, of course, when we get to the winter, when we get to October, the pressure that will be there on governments across Europe to somehow resolve the energy issue that will, no doubt, be increasing. Do you think that we are prepared for the long-term for Ukraine? Do you think we are ready for the cost that this is going to cause on our communities and our homes and families? 

Tobias Ellwood: Yeah. I think Ukraine fatigue is the biggest issue here. I mean, I touched on that strategic patience that we don't seem to have and that Russia does. I mean, if you are the last man standing as an aggressor, then you've won. You could throw everything at it, happy to lose personnel, equipment, and so forth. But if you got the territory at the end of the day and have the patience, you will win. So, there are really big questions for us to sell this, if you like, as to why Ukraine is important. 

Marko said this. It's actually Ukrainians doing the fighting for Europe. We ask ourselves: Why is there a cost of living crisis here? Why are food prices high here? It's because the grain can't get out of the country. It's as simple as that. And it's not just here in Britain. It's across Europe as well. German beer, for example, is now affected, going up in prices, because the malt, you know, comes originally from Ukraine. But there are other countries also that are going to probably experience famine: Egypt, Somalia, Lebanon, places like this. What's going to—? The geopolitical consequences of us not making sure that port remains open are absolutely huge. 

And then, there's wider questions as well. We are gifting so much weapon systems, but that's having a huge bearing on our own quartermaster stores, on our own cupboards, if you like, of equipment that we have. We're not able to replace those in the speed that we need to. So, we also become vulnerable. 

And then, there's big questions about what does our defence posture as a whole look like. The integrated review saw us reduce our own troop numbers by ten thousand. Now, we've got two battle groups now in Estonia. I hope that we are going – they're going to remain there just as we had during the Cold War. We had that line in Germany. We now need to make sure that line moves eastwards. It includes Finland and Sweden. But, of course, the Baltics, too. 

But if you're going to keep replenishing battle groups, you need the troops. And at the moment, we've reduced our troop numbers. Huge questions, not just for NATO, but for Britain as well. And recognising that security geopolitical, you know, security across Europe is on the demise. 

Tom Tugendhat: Well, look, thank you very much, indeed, for that, Tobias. 

Marko, one last question, if I may. If you look forward, how do you see the future relationship between the Baltic states, between Estonia in particular, and Russia? Is there a possibility to hope for a peaceful future? Is there—? Are there steps we could take that could get us there? 

Marko Mihkelson: This is a very provocative question. But, you know, going back into history, yes, we had better or not so good times. But I think with Putin's Russia, we won't have normal relations, not only between Estonia or Russia, but Western countries and Russia. How the hell can we sit behind the same table with a war criminal? This is unimaginable. 

And that brings us to the point why it is so essential today to coordinate better and help Ukraine to win their independence war. Because this is nothing else than the independence war for Ukraine, which was inevitable, actually, from very beginning of Soviet Union, after the Soviet Empire collapsed, because the future of both Russia, Ukraine, but entire Europe is very much connected to this. 

Is Russia going to be a, let's say, normal country without imperial ambitions or not? We see today. They have very, very vivid imperial ambitions for what they use massive conventional force. And the only possible way to build a peaceful and stable Europe with possibly peaceful relations between the Western countries and Russia is that this kind of Czech-isque, KGB situation must go.

Tom Tugendhat: Well, Marko, look, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us on this podcast, on Committee Corridor. It's wonderful to have you with us. And, Tobias, thank you very much for being here. It's really good to have your voice on this. 

Marko Mihkelson: Thank you.

Tobias Ellwood: Thank you. 

 

Tom Tugendhat: Next time, I'm going to be speaking to Richard Ratcliffe about his campaign—eventually, thank God, successful—to secure the release of his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, from a prison in Iran. I will be asking him why he thought the parliament could help and how. And once he'd knocked on the door of his MP, did that help to open any other doors? We'll be talking about the role that committees can play in relation to detentions or what we should be calling hostage-taking.

I'm Tom Tugendhat. I chair the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. And you've been listening to Committee Corridor

Thank you for joining us. And if you've enjoyed it, please, don't forget to subscribe to us and, of course, rate and review us. It helps others to find the podcast.

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