Baltic states seek defence guarantees

Amid mounting fears that they might be left behind in the race to join Nato, leaders of the three Baltic states are pressing the West to come up with convincing alternative strategies for their security.

It is not a task they are facing with relish. Having regained independence from Moscow just five years ago, all three countries believe that the only way they can keep it is by becoming part of the western military alliance.

As the Estonian Prime Minister, Tiit Vahi, put it: "What we really want is a security guarantee in the form of Nato membership as soon as possible. But if it is going to stop short of that then, please, tell us what you have in mind."

Mr Vahi yesterday had the chance to put his point across personally to Nato Secretary General Javier Solana during his brief stop-over in Tallinn.

The content of their private discussion was not revealed. In public, however, Mr Solana restated that none of the 11 countries currently seeking to join Nato had been excluded and that, while not being ruled in, the Baltic states had definitely not been ruled out.

Despite such reassurances in public, Nato officials admit privately that there are more difficulties surrounding the membership bids from the Baltic states than those from other former communist countries, such as Hungary and Poland, which will almost certainly be admitted to the alliance first.

The main problem concerns Russia and its violent objection to any suggestion that the Baltic states could one day join Nato. Russia is opposed to Nato expansion in principle, but is particularly sensitive about the idea of the alliance advancing up to its borders.

On top of Moscow's objections, Estonia and Latvia have the additional complication of containing very large ethnic Russian minorities, while Estonia even has an unresolved border dispute with Moscow.

While celebrating Baltic independence, many Western leaders baulk at the idea of actually being called upon to defend it. As Douglas Hurd, the former British foreign secretary, put it recently: "Is it really credible that the United States or, indeed, Britain would undertake to defend Estonia if this could only be done with nuclear weapons?"

Instead of Nato membership, Mr Hurd suggested that Baltic security concerns could best be met within a defence pact with neighbouring Scandinavian countries, headed by Sweden and Finland, neither of which are Nato members. Under such an arrangement, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia would clearly come under some sort of Western umbrella, but would not belong to an organisation viewed by many in Moscow as hostile.

On a practical level, Scandinavian countries have already contributed more than others to the building up and retraining of Baltic armed forces, and are happy to go on doing so. They are horrified, however, at the suggestion that they should bear ultimate responsibility for their security.

"This idea is simply unworkable," said a Scandinavian diplomat in Tallinn. "The Nordic countries are happy to complement Nato assistance here, but they cannot replace it."

Baltic leaders themselves fear that given recent moves in Russia towards recreating something of a union with former Soviet republics, exclusion from Nato will allow Moscow to think that they have fallen into a "grey zone".

"For us a `grey zone' would be a very black scenario," said Mari-Ann Kelam, Estonian foreign ministry press spokesman. "It could leave the impression that we were up for grabs."

To counter this impression, Baltic politicians would seek to step up their involvement in Nato's Partnership for Peace programme and would like to invite many more forces from Nato countries to participate in joint training exercises on Baltic territories.They are also planning to step up their efforts to join the European Union.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power