Estonia. In January, it was reported that Estonia and
Finland were seeking EU funding for a tunnel project in the
Gulf of Finland. The plans could become reality in the
In February, three men were sentenced to prison on
charges of espionage for the Russian security service.
According to the prosecution, they had, among other things,
provided information about the activities of the Estonian
countryaah, Estonia started construction of a fence on the border
with the Russian Federation. On the one hand, they talked
about the risk of an upcoming wave of refugees from the
Russian Federation, and on the other, they had decided to
strengthen the border guard since an Estonian security
police had previously been kidnapped by the Russian
Estonia accused the Russian Air Force of regularly
violating Estonian airspace. In May, British NATO planes
rose several times from Ämari airbase in Estonia to reject
both combat planes, transport planes and spy planes
approaching the Estonian border.
In May, one of the largest military exercises was carried
out after Estonia's exit from the Soviet Union. It was a
three-week maneuver with about 6,000 soldiers from Estonia
and allied NATO countries, including the United States,
Britain and Germany.
Estonia and the other Baltic countries felt that NATO's
presence in the Baltic was too small and symbolic to deter
the Russian Federation, whose annexation of Crimea in 2014
was perceived as a warning in the Baltic. NATO's plans to
expand its presence in, for example, Estonia were followed
in June by President Vladimir Putin's declaration that the
Russian Federation must strengthen its combat readiness in
response to NATO's "aggressive actions" near the borders of
The commander of US forces in Europe said that NATO's
current readiness was not enough to defend Estonia, Latvia
and Lithuania against a possible Russian attack. According
to the general, the Russian military could take Tallinn in a
couple of days.
At the NATO summit in Warsaw in July, the alliance
decided that a new battalion of approximately 1,000 men
should be stationed in each of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania
and Poland from 2017. In Estonia, the United Kingdom will
have a main force of 800 men, including tanks, backed by
soldiers from Denmark and France.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in the
United States said in July on a question about a supposed
Russian attack on the Baltic states that the United States
would defend other NATO countries only if they had fulfilled
their duties to the United States. Estonian President Toomas
Hendrik Ilves rushed to tweet that Estonia lives up to the
NATO requirement of 2% in defense spending and that Estonian
soldiers fought in NATO's operation in Afghanistan.
When US Vice President Joe Biden visited the Baltics in
August and met with Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian
presidents, he declared that they would not take Donald
Trump's statement seriously. Biden assured that it was a
sacred promise from the United States to defend other NATO
countries in attack, and he assured that there was a
majority among both Democrats and Republicans in the United
States to stand by this commitment.
In August, the Russian Federation conducted an
unannounced military maneuver in the western part of the
country, bordering the Baltic States.
Estonia's economy was expected to slow somewhat during
the year and growth is expected to be 1.5%. The important
oil shale industry in the Narva area in the northeast went
poorly due to the low oil price and unemployment in the
region reached over 12%, compared with about 5% in the
country as a whole.
When the parliament elected a new president in August,
the parties failed to create a two-thirds majority for any
of the five candidates. The election therefore went on to an
electoral college with both parliamentarians and local
politicians. But even the electoral college failed. In the
decisive round, neither of the two remaining candidates got
enough votes for a simple majority.
Parliament then got the election back, and the government
parties and the opposition negotiated a broad consensus on
an unpolitical candidate. It was Kersti Kaljulaid, 46, who
was, among other things, active at the EU Court of Auditors.
As Estonia's first female head of state, she was supported
by 81 of Parliament's 101 members.
In November, the government collapsed when the Social
Democrats (S) and the right-wing Alliance IRL shared a
common cause with the opposition and voted down Prime
Minister Taavi Rõiva's Liberal Reform Party. A new
government was negotiated between the leftist Center Party,
S and IRL. It became possible since the Center Party made
internal revolt against its longtime leader Edgar Savisaar
and elected Jüri Ratas, who now also became new prime
During the year, Estonian police revealed a league that
smuggled Swedish snus to Estonia and earned a million
dollars. The sale of snuff was banned in Estonia the year
before, and the league is suspected of smuggling about 8
tonnes of snuff from Sweden and made a profit of close to
EUR 2 million.