Russia exposes Obama's empty security promises to Estonia

Joining the now-notorious “red line” empty threat issued against Assad of Syria is a much more dangerous example of Barack Obama’s fatuous bluster, his assurance of NATO backing of the Baltic States last Wednesday in Tallinn, Estonia:

"The defense of Tallinn and Riga and Vilnius is just as important as the defense of Berlin and Paris and London," Obama said. "Article Five is crystal clear. An attack on one is an attack on all.

"So if, in such a moment, you ever ask again, who will come to help, you'll know the answer: the NATO alliance, including the armed forces of the United States of America, right here, present, now."

Two days after President Obama issued this red line threat, Russia called his bluff.  Liis Kangsepp and Juhana Rossi report in the Wall Street Journal:

The apparent abduction and detention of an Estonian security officer raised tensions between Estonia and Russia just two days after PresidentBarack Obama came to the country and vowed to defend it as a NATO member.

Estonia's Internal Security Service, known as KAPO, said its officer Eston Kohver was "illegally detained" at gunpoint early Friday while on duty in southeastern Estonia. It said his abductors had come from Russia and had jammed radio communications and used a smoke grenade in the incident.

"It is unacceptable that people who have crossed the Estonian border kidnap an Estonian citizen from Estonian territory," President Toomas Hendrik Ilves tweeted on Friday. "I expect the case to be solved quickly."

Russia's Federal Security Service, or FSB, said Mr. Kohver had been detained on Russian territory as part of a counter-espionage operation. The Interfax news agency quoted the FSB as saying he was carrying a Taurus pistol, 5,000 euros, hidden-recording equipment and a document "that appeared to be an espionage assignment."

KAPO said Mr. Kohver, who was tasked with preventing cross-border criminal activity and the flow of contraband, has been decorated for unspecified services to Estonia.

The director general of KAPO, Arnold Sinisalu, told journalists in the Estonian capital that there were footprints coming from Russia and going back to Russia at the crime scene. He said there had been no similar incidents since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991.

KAPO officials said Russian border guards told them they knew nothing of the incident.

An IBD editorial accurately characterizes what the Russians have done here:

Well, it's into the "right here, present, now" that Vladimir Putin has stuck his face.

His swift effort to nullify Obama's words is no different from his immediate neutralization of Obama's red line in Syria, a chess move that left Putin the dominant player in that country.

With this latest provocation, on the heels of his invasion of Ukraine, as well as new airspace incursions over the Baltics and even Finland, Putin has again made the promises of the leader of the Free World sound hollow.

The Kohver abduction will have a terrible effect on Eastern Europe, which has just seen a bullied Ukraine sign a "peace" treaty with Russia. Ukraine had no choice, since the U.S. and EU failed to do much to help it defend itself.

Putin picked on Estonia because it had the gall to host an American president and to forge an alliance with NATO. No doubt, he wants to see if NATO is a real mutual defense alliance — or a paper tiger.

We are in very dangerous territory now. Russia will be encouraged to escalate its provocations, having seen that Obama’s threats are empty. Putin as already mentioned that Russia is a nuclear power, a not so veiled threat to start World War Three should his future aggression meet a response. The risk is that having shown he can be bullied, Obama will respond too late and too strongly, thereby setting off Armageddon.

Weakness is provocative. Obama believes the opposite, and he is as wrong as Neville Chamberlain was.

Hat tip: Michael Nadler