Estonian PM: Biggest sanctions losers will be ordinary Russian consumers

Taavi Roivas
Taavi Rõivas [Estonian Government]

EU sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis will hurt Russian consumers, but Moscow's retaliatory food import ban will have little effect on Estonian food producers, says Taavi Rõivas, the Estonian prime minister.

Taavi Rõivas, the leader of Estonia’s Reform Party, was nominated as prime minister last March, after serving as the conutry’s social affairs minister for two years. At 34, he is the youngest government leader in the EU. He was talking to Euractiv.Cz’s Jan Pavec, during a press meeting in Tallinn, Estonia.

What result are you expecting from the sanctions that the EU has imposed on Russia?

There would not have been any sanctions without a belief that sanctions would lead to a de-escalation of the conflict. Their aim is to force Russia not to get involved in Ukrainian business anymore. I hope that Putin does not want [to inflict] such an economic sacrifice on the Russian people. I am persuaded that the biggest sacrifice will be made by ordinary Russian consumers. We can hardly imagine a situation in which Russian shops have no food from the EU, Australia and the United States. It will end in rows of empty shelves, a lack of choice and, probably, higher food prices too. This has already been happening because of the Rouble’s devaluation. Russian consumers will suffer heavily from what the Russian president has done.

Sanctions will have an impact on agriculture in many EU countries. But a lot of them have known since the 90s that doing business with Russia potentially carries very high profits but also tremendous risks. We are not happy that we had to impose sanctions on Russia but we had no choice. All the terms we gave were not met, and Russia offered no explanations.

Is there still a chance for dialogue between the two sides in the conflict?

Dialogue is always a positive thing, but we have to keep in mind that one country is intervening in another country’s affairs. The keys for a solution to the conflict are in the hands of Vladimir Putin.

What are the figures for Estonian exports to Russia? Is Estonia going to ask for financial help to cope with Russia's retaliatory food import ban?

Exports to Russia make up 8.4% of our total export market. Russia is our third biggest export partner. It takes 19% of our agricultural agricultural exports. But half of it is re-exported food, and especially alcohol. So it is less than one tenth overall - and one fifth of our dairy products. It is quite insignificant.

Are you afraid that a similar crisis to the eastern Ukraine could happen in Estonia?

The Estonian situation is totally different. We are a member of NATO, which is the strongest military alliance in the world. I do not see an imminent threat, but I see an ambition for empire.

Do you believe that in such a case, NATO would stand up for Estonia?

If any village on NATO’s border were successfully attacked without a response, it would be the end of NATO. No-one would trust this organization again. I am 100 % sure that NATO takes its commitment to defend all of its allies very seriously.



Jay's picture

Sanctioned goods as a share of GDP in percents.

Reliant on Russian gas

Lithuania.......0.6 100%
Estonia.........0.45 100%
Lativia.........0.35 100%
Poland..........0.28 59%
Norway..........0.25 0
Finland.........0.18 100%

Sources: IMF and Bloomberg

Jay's picture

European powers, rocked by the Great Recession and Euro zone crisis, have responded by systematically shedding military force structure and capabilities that were inadequate even before the debt crisis. For many years U.S. officials have complained about Europe’s failure to live up to its defense responsibilities. Of NATO’s 28 member countries, for instance, only a few even come close the alliance’s stated goal of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense, and the NATO average is 1.5 percent. While the United Kingdom, France and Greece almost meet their alliance commitment, other major countries such as Germany, Italy and the Netherlands are perpetual laggards.

European allies have cut their military forces dramatically, with Britain and France reducing warships to the point that they have contemplated having to share a single aircraft carrier. The United Kingdom, traditionally the closest and most reliable U.S. military partner, has so reduced the readiness and size of its ground forces that U.S. officials worry they may no longer be agile or capable enough to operate alongside their U.S. counterparts to the degree they did in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under current plans Britain plans to reduce its regular ground forces to just 82,000 troops, representing the smallest British army since the Battle of Waterloo. Germany is in the process of reducing its armed forces from 250,000 in 2010 to 185,000 active duty planned for in 2017. The Dutch have eliminated heavy tank forces altogether.

Jay's picture

The removal of the last remaining 22 tanks of the 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade at Grafenwöhr, Germany has just been completed. Two German-based U.S. Army brigades were just inactivated, and another is currently being disbanded.

At the end of the day, anyone in the Baltic countries counting on NATO should just go ahead and bend over, kiss your bum goodbye.

Jay's picture

"The keys for a solution to the conflict are in the hands of Vladimir Putin."

The late US Congressional Senator Daniel Moynihan famously said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not to his own facts.” The new cold war way of thinking that is accepted as true or correct rests almost entirely on lies.

Lie: The only way out of the crisis is for Putin to end his “aggression” and call off his agents in southeastern Ukraine.

Fact: The underlying causes of the crisis are Ukraine’s own internal divisions, not primarily Putin’s actions. The primary factor escalating the crisis since May has been Kiev’s “anti-terrorist” military campaign against its own citizens, now mainly in the Donbass cities of Luhansk and Donetsk. Putin influences and no doubt aids the Donbass “self-defenders.” Considering the pressure on him in Moscow, he is likely to continue to do so, perhaps even more, but he does not control them. If Kiev’s assault ends, Putin probably can compel the rebels to negotiate. But only the Obama administration can compel Kiev to stop, and it has not done so.

Martin444's picture

How much money Putin pays you to write all this crap in every thread related to Russia?