Simon Schofield – Senior Fellow interviews Linda Eicheler
3rd April 2014. Security and Defence, Issue 2, No. 1.
HIC Interview with Linda Eichler, Vice President of the YEPP
Here, we present to you our interview with Linda Eicheler currently running as a candidate for the European Parliament. She is the youngest candidate on the list of Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL), the leading conservative party in Estonia. She is both Vice- Chairman and International Secretary of IRL Youth and was elected by the biggest amount of the supporting votes as Vice President of Youth of the European People´s Party (YEPP) at the 9th Annual YEPP Congress Sofia, Bulgaria. Linda is the first Estonian ever to get elected to the YEPP board. She is currently employed in the private sector as a consultant.
Q: Should the Crimea be a part of the Russian Federation?
A: No, in Estonia, we were happy to hear of the UN condemnation of the Crimean referendum. Russia has violated international law and has no claims on Crimea. Vladimir Putin cannot change EU borders as he pleases, which he also tried to do in his war with Georgia. I think the West should punish him for his aggression.
Q: Should Estonia be worried about Russian expansionism?
A: Of course, we and the other Baltic States should be worried about Russia. However, fortunately for us, Estonia is an EU member state and also a member of NATO. In fact, we recently celebrated our ten year anniversary since becoming a NATO member. Russia is attempting to intimidate us with sabre rattling, making use of military exercises in the Oblast and the Eastern border of Ukraine. NATO has set a target for each member of putting 2% of GDP towards defence. Estonia has always maintained this, but other EU states need to increase their defence spending to reach this commitment. On the youth side, our sister parties [Linda belongs to the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Youth (IRLY)], the KNL in Finland, Unge Höyre in Norway and the Moderata Youth in Sweden called for Finland and Sweden to join NATO. Nevertheless it is worrying that Russia clearly has no respect for international agreements, they are hungry and want to hide their own country’s internal issues through aggressive foreign policy.
Q: How do the Baltic States see the situation?
A: Putin’s agenda is protecting Russians in other countries, Putin claims Russians’ rights are not protected in the Baltic States. However the Estonian President says Russians have far better rights here than in Russia. Take for example the fact that Putin said Russians could return to Russia for security if they wanted to in 2007 when a riot broke loose in Tallinn. Very few ethnic Russians decided to take Putin up on his offer. Russia has not changed, despite what many in the West might think. This new aggressive posture has been heralded since the cyber attack on Estonia in 2007 and the conflict with Georgia in 2008.
Q: Should the European Union fast-track Moldova’s accession to deter the Russians from aggressive foreign policy actions against Moldova?
A: It’s a big question, how much space can we afford to give Putin to invade Moldova? I certainly think that the EU should help them economically and politically to meet the accession requirements. Estonia is a convinced supporter of the Republic of Moldova’s integration with Europe.
Q: What does Russia’s new assertive posture mean for fledgling democracies in Eastern Europe?
A: We have to increase our defence budgets, they have been cut significantly Europe-wide and this should be reversed. The current situation clearly shows the need for it. As I said before, Russia hasn’t changed, it is still led by oppressive officers of the old Soviet structures. It is very important for the West and the US to have a stronger military presence here [Estonia] and also in the region.
Q: How should the European Union respond to Russia?
A: Sanctions are necessary, but the sanctions that are currently in place are a joke and don’t do the trick. The blacklist is considered a matter of personal honour to members of the Kremlin. The sanctions should be harder, assets should be frozen, the list of people in the blacklist should be significantly increased and a more aggressive financial sanction strategy implemented. Russian passports are given to many people, which allows them to travel, the West should be wary of this. France’s contract building Mistral class ships for the Russian navy is unwise, all military cooperation with Russia should cease. Russia’s military equipment is old at the moment, we shouldn’t be helping them update it!
Q: Was Russia’s exclusion from the G8 the right response?
A: The world needs to send a clear message that violations of international law are unacceptable, they cannot act like this. You cannot redraw the European borders as you want. It’s good that Russia has been excluded, from the G8, though I saw they are now planning to meet as part of the G1!
Q: What does the future hold for Western Ukraine in relation to Europe?
Ukraine really wants to reform itself to tackle corruption and we are looking forward to welcoming them to the EU family. There should be a lot of support given both economically and politically to Ukraine.
Q: What role do you feel EU Association Agreements will play in the developing standoff between Russia and the West?
An EU Association Agreement is the number one thing that Russia doesn’t want, because it puts the EU and NATO on their doorstep. Russia also doesn’t want Finland and Sweden to join NATO, for similar reasons and will be doing all it can to impede progress on all of these fronts. Russia shouldn’t be allowed to influence the region like this. None of these countries should go along with Russia’s provocations and attempts to derail NATO and EU agreements. We need to diversify our energy supplies and the USA must have a stronger military presence in Europe. We need to see the US undo its withdrawal of military forces since the end of the Cold War. My Party Leader [Urmas Reinsalu, who is also Estonia’s former Defence Minister] went to the USA to tell the Americans that they should bring military to the Baltic States to have a presence. He was mocked in the media for his statement months ago but now everybody sees that he was right!
Simon Schofield is contactable at:
Please cite this article as:
Schofield, S. (2014). ‘The Russian Resurgence: A View from Estonia’
Human Security Centre, Defence and Security, Issue 2, No. 1.