Ex-Adviser Warns About Putin as Finland Worries

Image: Ex-Adviser Warns About Putin as Finland Worries

Monday, 31 Mar 2014 05:52 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Russia has annexed Crimea, but Vladimir Putin may not be done yet and may be thinking of conquering the Baltic States and Finland, reports said Monday.

Speaking to the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, Andrej Illarionov, Putin's adviser from 2000 to 2005, warned that the Russian president wants to establish "historical justice" and may argue that Finland's independence in 1917 was an act of "treason against national interests," the Independent reported.

"Putin’s view is that he protects what belongs to him and his predecessors," said Illarionov, who is currently a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.

"Parts of Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States and Finland are states where Putin claims to have ownership.

"It is not on Putin's agenda today or tomorrow," Illarionov said. "But if Putin is not stopped, the issue will be brought sooner or later. Putin has said several times that the Bolsheviks and Communists made big mistakes.

"He could well say that the Bolsheviks in 1917 committed treason against Russian national interests by granting Finland's independence."

Illarionov also argued that sanctions have helped — not hurt — Russia's aggression because they "confirm his view of the world" and that of "the Kremlin’s propaganda."

"We must offer resistance by all means available," he said. "I'm not a bloodthirsty person, but there is sometimes no other way than military power to stop an opponent. The only answer to pure aggression is demonstrating willingness to offer a collective defense."

NBC News reported that Russia's military drills near Finland have only heightened the nation's jitters.

Troops and jet fighters from all four military regions of Russia were deployed Sunday about 150 miles east of the Finnish border, NBC reported, citing the newspaper Finnbay.

The Russian defense ministry said the exercises had been planned, but Jonathan Eyal of the London think tank Royal United Services Institute told NBC News that there's "no question" the exercises show Russia's flexing its muscle in the region.

"In pure capability terms, the Russians are preparing an operation," Eyal said. "The question is: Is there an actual military threat? I do not think there will be."

"The people of Helsinki are nervous," Andrew Kutchins, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told NBC News. "What Putin is doing is sending shock waves through Europe."

Still, unlike Crimea, Putin would have a tougher time justifying annexation of Finland, Business Insider reported.

Nearly 60 percent of Crimea's population is ethnic Russian, the newspaper pointed out; Russians compose less than 1 percent of Finland's population. Also, Finland doesn't host any Russian military installations, as does Crimea, Business Insider noted.

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