Sten Hankewitz: Kidnapping of Estonian officer is political – as is everything related to Russia

The Red Army entering Estonia in October 1939, effectively occupying the country. Today's Russia behaves frighteningly similarly to the Soviet Union in the thirties.

On 5 September, operatives of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) illegally entered the territory of the Republic of Estonia, a member of NATO and the European Union, and kidnapped by force an officer of the Internal Security Service (ISS) of Estonia.

The facts we know today tell us the officer was definitely on the Estonian side of the border, and he was waiting for his supposed informant to show up and give him information on a case he was working on. The case had nothing to do with espionage, but was rather about cross-border criminal activity and contraband. Moreover, the ISS is Estonia’s internal security service, which means rather than spying on Russia it deals with issues that threaten Estonian national security inside Estonia’s borders.

Not political? Not provocative?

The Russian authorities, of course, see it differently. They claim the Estonian officer was arrested on the Russian side of the border, and he is suspected of espionage. He was taken to Moscow, charged in court, detained for at least two months, and, if convicted, faces 10-20 years in a Russian jail. And even though Russia’s own laws say that when a foreigner is arrested on Russian soil, the foreigner’s country’s authorities have to be notified within 12 hours, such notice was given to Estonia only on 8 September, and only a day after that was the kidnapped officer finally allowed to meet with Estonian representatives.

In light of all this, I’ve got to ask the political commentators and experts who say that the kidnapping was not politically motivated nor provocative, how can you say that? When the authorities of a country with whom you don’t have the best relations kidnap a security officer on your soil at gunpoint, drag him across the border and charge him with espionage, and then blatantly lie about all the facts surrounding the incident, how is that not political, how is that not provocative?

It’s the Soviet Union, stupid

We’ve got to remember here that we’re not dealing with a normal country in the sense of the Western world. We’re dealing with a dictatorship with a very public expansionist agenda; a leadership that has publicly said its country’s neighbours are in their “sphere of interest”; a country that has, in the recent years, brutally attacked two of its neighbours, occupying considerable portions of their territories and killing thousands of people. We’re dealing with a country that arms thugs and terrorists in Ukraine, and those arms have been used by those same terrorists to shoot down a civilian aircraft, murdering 300 people in cold blood. We are, after all, dealing with the Soviet Union.

The fact is that even though in the beginning of the nineties there might have been signs that the Cold War was over, it actually wasn’t. There might have been a short truce, but Russia’s ambitions didn’t vanish, but grew. By leading the image of a developing democracy, Russia got stronger, Russia got more arrogant, and since the West didn’t want to pay enough attention, Russia again grew into the same dictatorial, murderous monstrosity the Soviet Union was.

Russia is an enemy of the West

Now, being as strong and as arrogant as the Soviet Union was in its heyday, the truce in the Cold War is officially over. The current Soviet Union, in the guise of the Russian Federation, uses the same tricks, the same methods again and again, and lies as blatantly as the Soviet Union in its prime.

Fortunately for Estonia, the one thing that has changed is the fact that Estonia is no longer occupied by the Soviet Union, but a full member of the Western world. Estonia is a member of the European Union and NATO. Estonia has, at least in theory, the Article 5 protection all NATO members have. Estonia is now the West – and that makes Russia also an enemy to Estonia.

We should no longer pretend or hide behind political correctness in this matter. Estonia and Russia are not partners, not peaceful neighbours, not even states that can peacefully coexist. Estonia and Russia, as the entire Western world and Russia, are bitter enemies in the Cold War that Russia has again reinitiated and is fighting on every front.

In order to effectively defend themselves, the NATO countries bordering Russia should have permanent NATO presence, both personnel and armoury. Pictured US Air Force V-22 Osprey multi-mission aircraft. Photo: US Air Force, public domain.

Permanent NATO bases, troops on the ground

And now ask yourself – if the special forces of your enemy penetrate your territory and kidnap a police officer of your country, how is that not political? How is that not provocative? And, should we really not be afraid of what might happen next?

Today, the sad fact is, Estonia has to be ready for any scenario. With a powerful enemy just a three-hour drive from Tallinn, Estonia must today do everything it can to prevent further attacks on the country’s sovereignty. And that includes more forcefully demanding permanent NATO personnel and armory on its territory. That includes more forcefully demanding that the rest of the Western world sanctions Russia at every possible angle, even up to the point of completely sealing Russia off and leaving it floating in its own mess.

The Western world is, unfortunately, dealing with an enemy that understands force, and only force. Only a strong military presence in the countries around Russia, especially NATO member states, and only the strongest sanctions against the Russian regime can present such a force.

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Cover photo: The Red Army entering Estonia in October 1939, effectively occupying the country. Today’s Russia behaves frighteningly similarly to the Soviet Union in the thirties. The opinions in this article are those of the author.

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About the author: Sten Hankewitz

Sten Hankewitz is a lifelong journalist and Deputy Editor at Estonian World. Having lived in Estonia, Spain, the UK and all around the US, he now resides in Chicago, IL. He loves to write and besides working at Estonian World and doing some occasional blogging, he writes books and contributes to other outlets in Estonia, Israel and elsewhere. He has strong convictions and he shows them unashamedly. You can follow him on Twitter, like his page on Facebook or check out his personal blog. You can write to Sten at sten@estonianworld.com.