Tallinn, Estonia—Estonian air force Commander Col. Jaak Tarien said Russia continues to employ “good-old Cold War tactics,” noting that the buildup of Russian forces in response to pre-planned NATO exercises in the Baltic area “was quite expected.” Tarien said there is “nothing unusual” about NATO conducting the exercises in the Baltic region, as both Saber Strike and BALTOPS have been in the works for about a year. “But, for the internal propaganda, Russia had to reach and show its reaction,” Tarien told Air Force Magazine during an interview at Amari Air Base here in Estonia on June 13. “One thing that Russia has definitely learned from the 2008 war against Georgia is that then they were losing the [public relations] war, and now their propaganda is very powerful,” he said. Estonia is one of only four countries in the NATO alliance that spends at least two percent of its gross domestic product on defense. Tarien said he has repeatedly called on other European nations to “start taking defense as seriously as we are.” He acknowledged the fiscal challenges many European countries face, but said, “I have heard already that many nations in Europe are seriously considering increasing their defense spending.”
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.