While Trump plies his wiles trying to get the feckless Germans and Dutch to pay their share of defending their stagnating continent, at least part of free Europe doesn’t need reminding of the consequences of not standing up for their own freedom.
The Poles need no reminding about keeping their defenses strong.
And to their north, the Latvians, Lithuanians, and especially Estonians, in the wake of Obama’s debacle in Ukraine, seem to grasp the need to defend their freedom. Four percent of Estonia’s entire population is in the military or the (voluntary) reserves – not bad for one of the more libertarian states in Europe.
Like almost all Estonians of his generation, what drives [Estonian special forces Colonel Riho] Uhtegi is intensely personal, and tends to be tied up in the history of his country.
“We all had one grandparent that remembered independence,” said Uhtegi, speaking of growing up during the Soviet occupation, “and they filled our heads with stories of it.” He shifts his very blue Estonian gaze back from the distance. Unspoken is the fate of all the other grandparents—the ones who were executed by the Russians or died somewhere in a gulag. Wartime casualties aside, more than 10 percent of Estonia’s population was deported before Stalin’s death in 1953.
And it’s not even a little bit abstract:
“You know why the Russians didn’t take Tbilisi in 2008?” Uhtegi asked me. “They were just up the road, 50 kilometers or so, and nothing was stopping them.”
Having spent many years in Georgia, I knew the answer to this one: because Georgians are crazy. Uhtegi barked a laugh. “Yes. Exactly. Georgians are crazy, and they would fight. The idea of this unwinnable asymmetric fight in Tbilisi was not so appealing to the Russians.”
He continued: “There are always these discussions. Like, yeah. The Russians can get to Tallinn in two days. … Maybe. [The Estonian capital is about 125 miles from the Russian border.] But they can’t get all of Estonia in two days. They can get to Tallinn, and behind them, we will cut their communication lines and supplies lines and everything else.” That dead-eyed Baltic stare fixes me again. “They can get to Tallinn in two days. But they will die in Tallinn. And they know this. … They will get fire from every corner, at every step.”
Read the whole, fascinating thing.