Estonia’s President Sees Mistral Sale as a “Difficult Situation for Us”

From Josh Rogin, the Cable:  Ilves:  What we do see with a weakened transatlantic relationship is a return to a much more national agenda than you had before. …

Rogin: How do you view the coming sale of the amphibious assault ship Mistral from France to Russia?

Ilves: What has been said is that if one country doesn’t do it, some other NATO country will be willing to step in because of the economic crisis. I think it touches on a much broader issue on where we are today, which is that it’s not the Cold War, so countries feel that they can sell. It’s a competition within NATO member states on which shipyard will get the deal. And if it’s not the French it’ll be the Dutch or the Spanish. Now I don’t know if that’s true, but this is a difficult situation for us because it really comes down to how much you trust the Russians. Clearly, some of the remarks that were about ‘well we could have taken over and had we had this ship, we could have done Georgia in 40 minutes’ doesn’t make anybody very thrilled.

Rogin: According to the NATO secretary general, the Mistral sale is not a NATO issue, it’s a bilateral issue. Is that right?

Ilves: Well, if it all becomes a bilateral issue then why do we have a NATO? That’s a philosophical issue that we have to address. Is it only a collective issue when you’re attacked but otherwise it’s all 19th century selling whatever you can? I don’t know but we need to discuss these things.

Excerpts from interview of the President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves.  (photo: Office of the President of Estonia)

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