Future US President Donald trump (Donald Trump) scared the Baltic countries with their statements about Russia and NATO. Journalists of Helsingin Sanomat went to the “new front line” between Russia and NATO. The way lay from Pskov to Lithuania and Latvia to Kaliningrad, and the locals explained that they expect from a trump presidency.
The path to the border is only a few kilometers. After it starts Estonia — and this is a military Alliance, NATO. We are located in Pskov, Russia. Soviet army major, retired Michael Butabaev sitting at the table in the kitchen of a small house and laughs.
“A person is interested in two things: is there life on Mars and whether the war”.
He then begins to speak seriously.
“The relationship is hardly friendly, if on the border begin to appear troops.”
Here, on the border of Russia and the Baltic States, all live in anticipation of change.
January 20, U.S. President to intercede Donald trump, who said last summer that the US will not default to defend the Baltics in case of Russian invasion. The statement was unexpected, since the Baltics are part of NATO since 2004.
The residents of the Baltic States feel anxiety from the beginning of 2014, when Russia invaded Crimea and started war in Eastern Ukraine. Relations between NATO and Russia deteriorated. However, Russia believes the reason for the missile shield, which should appear in Poland, and against which it acts.
The value of this boundary as an important front line has increased that much in Pechory. Immediately after the occupation of the Crimea Russian military equipment began to fly over these territories more often.
Pskov — old military town. It is known for its airborne division, which is considered one of the best in Russia. Its fighters participated in the war in Eastern Ukraine. It became clear in late summer 2014, when its soldiers began to die.
“When they came out of the column from Pskov August 19, 1991, at seven in the morning, around noon they were already in Tallinn,” says Butabaev, Recalling the events, when the Baltic States separated from the Soviet Union.
In his opinion, in these matters it ultimately comes to trust. Now he was no one hand. Therefore, he believes that with the arrival of trump’s situation will change.
The same position is shared by the bar Karl Fridrih on Lenin street.
“It’s not dependent on one person,” says Alen (Alen).
He’s from a military family and does not want to give his name in full.
If Butabaev tells about military formations is uncertain, Allen says only about NATO.
“NATO constantly locates in the Baltic States. Only recently talked about the new tanks. We all remember what happened last time when the border had a lot of tanks.”
We are talking about 87 tanks with American soldiers, newly arrived in Poland, part of which will go to the Baltic States.
When such was last time?
Near the Estonian border is Izborsk, which in the period between the wars belonged to Estonia. Previously, he was one of the Western outposts of Russia. This was reminiscent of a medieval fortress.
The city is now not a peaceful place. To the 1150th anniversary of Izborsk in 2012 a group of conservative and nationalist-minded officers and analysts founded the Izborsky club. The Kremlin assesses the activities of the club in different ways.
Club members liberalism and opposition to the West. Some want to regain the old borders of the Russian Empire.
The inhabitants of Izborsk other concerns.
“Normal people just go about your day,” says Liive intercession. Her friend Hope Canine adheres to the same opinion. She did not understand why the West think that ordinary Russians want war.
All thoughts fills weaving — a warehouse full of traditional izborsky carpet — and that Izborsk abandoned to their fate. In Izborsk with a population of a thousand people, no gas, normal water, sewer and doctors.
This local government was not worried, but for some reason they decided to “clean up” the cemetery. Even the crosses and tombstones with the ground.
“Here no one needs NATO. We have our own war. At the cemetery,” laughs husband Alexander Pokrovsky.
Perhaps the world will change for the better, when trump becomes President of the United States. At least there is hope.
So says Yuri Vinogradov, 33-year-old truck driver in the city of Rezekne.
“He’s probably wise enough to find a new path for relations between Russia and the United States. At least he says the right thing,” he said.
The large Russian minority living in close proximity to Riga and Latgale region in Eastern Latvia in Rezekne. Here on the streets Russian speech is heard and the word “Russia”. Many Russian speakers watch Russian television and support the policy of the Kremlin.
Therefore, in the spring of 2014, many people in the West suspected that the next target of Russia is the East of Latvia, and Rezekne will be the new Donetsk.
The inhabitants of Rezekne speech are bored for a long time. Vinogradov also do not believe in war.
Whether he understands why many residents of Latvia are concerned after the annexation of Crimea?
“This way of thinking of young people. If there’s something bad, they immediately begin to think that soon the same thing will happen with them.”
Later he repeats: Crimea joined Russia voluntarily in the referendum.
In Latvia there is little that can be divided into black and white. According to a study published by the National Academy of defence of Latvia, the Russian-speaking half does not support the Kremlin’s views. But the difference with the Kremlin in views does not mean disloyalty.
This is evident, for example, in the village of Macusani. In the village there is a school of artistic crafts with a good reputation, which come from afar. Many other schools here have been closed as families moved to other EU countries. Most of the students — Russian-speakers who began training, knowing only their native language.
According to the rector of the institution, it is, nevertheless, not a matter of concern among Russian-speaking parents.
“After Crimea, many felt anxious. Putin’s actions are hard to predict,” he says, when it comes to more General questions.
“Although it’s a concern, but if you live here, should not always be afraid of Russia. It’s destructive for yourself.”
Victory trump has strengthened the feeling of insecurity, although the candidacy of James Mattis (James Mattis) to the post of Minister of defence calmed down a bit. Politicians have decided that defense spending will be increased. Talk about social equality in society has increased.
However, many of the annoyance statement of American General Raymond Thomas (Raymond T. Thomas) in the new room The New York Times, according to which the Baltic States are “scared to death of Russia.” General it is unlikely that he invented these words, but, according to many residents of Latvia, such conversations create a picture of their helplessness.
Latvians remember with pleasure that a year after the occupation of the Crimea in the ranks of the voluntary defense organization, called the National guard of Latvia, joined almost a thousand new members.
The student Thomasons Juris (Juris Tomašūns) is one of them.
“We better prepare for war, regardless of whether it starts or not. Of course, no one wants war, but we must always be ready,” he says at his home in the city of Jelgava in Central Latvia.
He says that trump has already broken his campaign promises. Allegations of its close relationship with Russia is also not promising.
His father, historian Thomasons Andris (Andris Tomašūns) does not believe in war. However, he believes that the US and Russia will not be able to understand the system, anywhere from one person does not depend on anything in another country, from one person depends on almost everything.
“We cannot say that it is only on the East and the West, rather, that there are two separate worlds”.
The employee of the library of the Lithuanian city of Siauliai Lekganyane Inga (Inga Liekmanienė) disappearing between the bookshelves. She soon returns with a thin book in his hands.
This brochure, published by the authorities of the country in which suggest how to prepare for war and possible occupation. Such brochures have already appeared three, the library has the latest version. From the preceding it is more concrete.
“Nobody took this booklet home. Not so much afraid of war here,” says Lekganyane.
“Wishing, of course, were able to look through it,” − said the Deputy Director of the library Magicienne Regina (Regina Miežetienė).
Released tens of thousands of copies of the brochure information is on the Internet. It is part of the government’s campaign, like television advertising, warning about spies. Lithuania boosts defence spending to the level specified in NATO.
In the city of Siauliai in Lithuania is concerned about many. Russia with great speed armed with the neighbouring Kaliningrad.
“Trump is a big problem, because he said that he can not help us. He seems unpredictable,” says Magicienne.
“In the summer we were a little relieved when NATO decided to send troops. And then won the trump.”
It confirms that the concerns may increase due to the fact that about it all the time politicians say.
In the city of Siauliai was one of the largest air bases of the Soviet Union. Now the airport used by NATO countries, which control of the territory by the airspace of the Baltic States.
Now a four-month duty are Dutch. At the end of the year will turn the French, who tell us that noticed during his last duty 23 Russian aircraft that were flying near the airspace of the Baltic States.
“Sometimes the thought occurs: will we see the first object from this airbase,” laughs Magicienne.
Speaking about the troops, Magicienne is referring to the battalion, which will arrive this year in Lithuania. The same battalions should appear in Poland, Latvia and Estonia.
This is one of the significant changes implemented in NATO. After the end of the cold war, the changes were focused on the crisis settlement, but after the capture of the Crimea, more attention was once again brought to question the overall defense of the NATO countries.
Baltic battalions intensified concerns. From the point of view of the Baltic countries, they are of great importance: aggression directed against any of the Baltic States, would, under current interpretation, to the implementation of Article 5 of the NATO Charter.
According to Article 5 of the Charter, an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all Alliance members. Thus, it defines the obligation of NATO to protect each other.
For a long time in the Baltic was dominated by concerns that a possible attack will only produce a showdown in NATO about whether it was an attack really is. Now there is a new concern, as others understand Article 5. In addition to trump, uncertainty arises because of the elections in Germany, France and Holland.
The street is only eight degrees, but the wind is very strong.
“We need at least a little to think about this question and send our politicians to discuss in the United States,” says pushing the stroller Madeliene Kristina (Kristina Medelienė).
“This question is impossible to live one day,” adds her husband Andrius Medelis (Andrius Medelis).
At the bus stop we found a serene dovydas, Yakimchuk (Dovydas Jokimčius).
“Because of this, I can’t sleep at night.”
When you go from Lithuania to the West, again returned to Russia. After the collapse of the Soviet Union Kaliningrad, located between Lithuania and Poland, and remained part of Russia. Have a site with about a million inhabitants has no connection with the rest of the country.
Here not talking about the level of security, the missiles of Russia, anti-missile shield in Poland and the NATO battalions that should appear in the Baltic States, or about the war, although recently the Kremlin called arrived to Poland American soldiers threat.
“The average person is not interested”, − says Sergey Sterlin, chief editor of the “Jewish newspaper”Kaliningrad.
In Kaliningrad it is easy to forget that you are in the most militarized zone of the Baltic sea. Here are seen the soldiers, in the port city of Baltiysk, the main naval base of the Baltic sea.
However, the Kaliningrad region is strategically important for Russia, from which it is possible to prevent the actions of NATO and to prevent the transfer of troops to the Baltic region.
In the West a lot of talk about the “Iskander” missiles, which can be installed nuclear warhead. In October, it defiantly profit system PRO “Caliber” with a more long-range than the Iskander, which can also be equipped with a nuclear warhead. Important are and anti-aircraft missile system s-400 “Triumph”
Officially, Russia is only responding to the actions of NATO. The same line adheres to Sterlin.
“We are here in Kaliningrad are held hostage to the militarization of Europe and the visa system. We did not have “Iskander”, but then brought NATO missiles in Poland, so later missiles appeared in our country,” he says.
In the evening we go for tea to Nicholas and his Wife Melanie. Jack was born in a Russian family in Lithuania and her Lithuanian passport.
It explains why the inhabitants of Kaliningrad are not talking about security policy: here for imported weapons, they feel safer. They are not afraid.
She says when you come to Lithuania, there is fear of the Lithuanians, although the reason for it. The worst was the time immediately after the annexation of Crimea, when it was scary to speak in Russian, she said.
Do You believe that trump will change the situation?
“The presidents of the United States will change, and the policy does not”, — says Nikolay.
Jacob Grigoriev came to the meeting in the cafe Fjost.
He also does not believe that the Baltic States are in danger, although I understand their fear after the events in Ukraine. According to him, Ukraine is, however, very different from the Baltic States: it is not a member of NATO and its importance for Russia is much greater.
Grigoriev confirms that he does not notice the talk about NATO.
“Some fear that NATO could be involved if every weekend we go to Poland for shopping?”