08:35 GMT +319 September 2019
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    Estonia Will Talk To Russia 'From Position of Strength' – Foreign Minister

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    Speaking to Australian media, the Baltic country's top diplomat accused Moscow of crimes including military aggression against its neighbors, cyberattacks and the spread of propaganda aimed at undermining democratic processes in Western countries.

    "When you talk to a leader like [President Putin], and obviously we need to talk with Russia, then you need to talk from a position of strength and unity and determination. Because any sign of hesitation is interpreted in the Kremlin as weakness to be exploited," Estonian foreign minister Sven Mikser said in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.

    Mikser accused Russia of launching "two military operations against its neighbors in a matter of 10 years: in 2008 against Georgia and more recently against Ukraine. It's a pretty scary pattern if you think about it. In 21st century Europe you see a country using military means to achieve its political goals – with apparently very little hesitation."

    According to the official, the recent uptick in NATO drills on Russia's border have been "pretty modest and definitely not escalatory…[it's] the way to preserve peace."

    The diplomat also spoke about Russian "hybrid threats," which Estonia has "taken very seriously for those more than 25 years that we have enjoyed our restored independence." The world, he said, is becoming more aware of Russia's malfeasance, including its 'propaganda operations', aimed at "either influenc[ing] the outcomes of democratic elections in [Western] societies and countries, or just to undermine people's confidence in those democratic processes."

    Estonia, Mikser said, has "developed pretty good defenses" against these threats.

    Learning about the Estonian foreign minister's remarks, Russian internet users couldn't get over his "position of strength" comment.

    "That's it, there won't be any breakthrough now. Estonia has decided to speak to us from a position of strength." 

    "The Estonian Air Force has been scrambled."

    "Urgent news! The Kremlin is in a panic. Estonia has declared that it will speak to Russia from a position of strength."

    "I'm only afraid of coffee makers, not Miksers."

    In 2008, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili launched a military operation against the breakaway region of South Ossetia, which caused the deaths of Russian peacekeepers and prompted a Russian military response. The Russian military operation blunted the Georgian attack, and South Ossetia and Abkhazia declared their independence. Kiev has repeatedly accused Russia of secretly sending troops to Eastern Ukraine to participate in Ukraine's ongoing civil war. Moscow has rejected the claims, pointing to a lack of any evidence suggesting Russian involvement.

    Last year, following comments by Baltic state politicians about a Russian threat to the region, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the "statements periodically heard from Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn that Russia threatens the identify of the Baltic countries and is hatching some aggressive intentions against them are absurd and absolutely unfounded."

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    foreign minister, Sven Mikser, Russia, Estonia
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