Tallinn, Estonia—The Russo-Georgian war in 2008 should have been the “real wakeup call,” but Estonian air force Commander Col. Jaak Tarien said the “western world chose to hit the snooze button.” That can’t happen again, he told Air Force Magazine during an interview at Amari Air Base here in Estonia on June 13. “Ukraine is nothing different from what happened in 2008 against Georgia except that it’s closer to Europe, but the Russian aggression is the same in that it is occupying an independent nation just by force and breaking every international law possible,” he said. He noted that the current Russian constitution allows Russian President Vladimir Putin to remain in power until 2024. “so we are running a marathon, not a sprint.” Tarien said NATO “needs to be taking measures that are sustainable.” The alliance “cannot afford to be seen as taking measures that boost the allied presence … for a short period of time [and] … then when seemingly Russia is pulling back, we let that presence drop. Because it sends a message that the allies are weakening their presence here and that makes us vulnerable,” he said. Russia’s annexation of Crimea is “just one episode in a long chain of events that Putin’s Russia has conducted in the world,” said Tarien.
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.