TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Estonia's foreign intelligence agency says the likelihood of a military attack from neighboring Russia remains low, but that any confrontation between Russia and the West could quickly turn into “a threat situation for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Director General Mikk Marran of the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service said Wednesday that while Moscow wants to refrain from a conflict with NATO, it may opt for "a preventive military offensive" in the Baltic region if it anticipates an escalation of a conflict "even if this occurs in another region".
"The main security threat for Estonia in the year 2020 is Russia. That threat hasn't changed as Russia hasn't changed," Marran told reporters during a news conference following unveiling of the agency's annual review in Tallinn, the capital of the former Soviet republic of 1.3 million.
Russian President Vladimir "Putin's regime remains in power and continues its fight against the democratic world order, including Estonia and our (NATO) allies. Almost all threats to Estonia's security derive from activities by Russia," Marran said.
The 79-page report said Moscow's increasing deployment of weapons along the borders of Estonia and its neighbors Latvia and Lithuania, Moscow's "covert influence operations" and its Cold War-style military maneuvers are destabilizing the Baltic Sea region. The region is home to nine European nations.
The Russian armed forces have deployed short-range ballistic Iskander missiles some 120 kilometers (75 miles) from its Estonian border and a mere 45 kilometers (27 miles) from its Lithuanian border, the agency noted. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have all been NATO members since 2004.
Some 18,000 Russian ground and airborne troops are currently stationed close to the border areas with Estonia and Latvia complete with a substantial amount of offensive equipment that brings "absolute supremacy"to Russia in military terms against NATO forces in the Baltic region, according to estimates by the agency.
Moscow's relations with Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius have remained icy for nearly 30 years since independence of the Baltic nations in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Estonia and Latvia both have sizable ethnic-Russian minorities, while Lithuania's ethnic-Russian population is more minor.
Last month, Putin watched over naval exercises involving multiple missile launches in the Black Sea. More than 30 warships and 39 aircraft took part.