One of the excuses Russia used to move into the Crimea was its right to protect the Russian speaking minority there. It is pretty thin cover for the expansionist move, but it isn’t without precedent. Back in the late ’30s, Germany used the same excuse to expand it’s borders, eventually leading to WWII.
One assumes Russia isn’t very much concerned how thin their excuse is, since it sees no one on the horizon willing to step up and stop them, so, given some recent statements, Estonia has to wonder if it is next:
Russia signaled concern on Wednesday at Estonia’s treatment of its large ethnic Russian minority, comparing language policy in the Baltic state with what it said was a call in Ukraine to prevent the use of Russian.
Russia has defended its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula by arguing it has the right to protect Russian-speakers outside its borders, so the reference to linguistic tensions in another former Soviet republic comes at a highly sensitive moment.
“Highly sensitive moment” is an understatement. Signalling such “concern” is a blatant warning, not necessarily just to Estonia, but to the West as well. It is issued in the face of VP Biden’s visit to Poland and with the Obama declaration we won’t go to war militarily over the Crimea still in the air.
If one had to guess as to whether Russia would make a move on Estonia, one would have to factor in one difference between the Ukraine and Estonia that may prove significant enough to prevent that. Estonia is a member of NATO, having joined in 2004. Any move, militarily, on Estonia, would be considered an attack on NATO.
Of course that doesn’t mean Russia won’t try to find someway to act in order to ameliorate its “concern”. Putin isn’t the crazy man as some in the West would like to portray him. He’s a very calculating person and it is clear the Crimean adventure was set up according to a plan to acquire it.
Estonia isn’t as easy a mark to acquire. That said, even if it isn’t as easy a mark, that doesn’t mean Russia isn’t going to try to influence what happens there. It may not be able to overtly occupy Estonia as it did the Crimea, but it may be satisfied with the “Finlandization” of that country. And, at the moment, there aren’t any countries in the West willing to oppose that … even in NATO.