Several Estonian experts agree that the purpose of Russia’s recent decision to establish a permanent heliport on the Gulf of Finland island of Gogland, located 55 kilometers from Estonia’s northern coast, is a demonstration of power, daily Postimees writes.
The newly built heliport includes five helipads and will reportedly be equipped to receive all types of transport and combat helicopters currently operational in Russia’s Western Military District. Nonetheless, experts in Tallinn don’t currently see a greater cause for concern.
“Experts at the Ministry of Defence are constantly monitoring the location and movement of military units in Estonia’s vicinity, including the activities in question on the island of Gogland,” ministry spokesperson Andres Saag told Postimees. “There is currently no immediate military threat to Estonia.”
Vladimir Juškin, director of the Baltic Center for Russian Studies, as well as retired Gen. Ants Laaneots, a member of the National Defence Committee of the Riigikogu, both said that they also believe that Russia’s new heliport, which is located not far from either the Finnish or Estonian coasts, does not pose a military threat to Estonia.
“Rather, it is Russia’s demonstration of power in the Baltic Sea,” Juškin said. “‘We want to show that the Baltic Sea is our inland sea and we will do what want, and you will simply look at it.’ I do not believe that it is preparation for something bigger.”
He stressed that the Baltic Sea, including the Gulf of Finland, is of strategic importance to Russia. The island of Gogland plays a key role in this as, from Moscow’s point of view, this is an outpost for St. Petersburg as well as Kronstadt, where elements of Russia’s military fleet are located.
Laaneots: Russia protecting St. Petersburg
According to Laaneots, the Russians’ decision should be seen above all else as their desire to strengthen the protection and security of the Russian security area bordering the Baltic Sea.
“Just to see what is happening at sea around here,” he added, referring to major powers’ custom of spying on one another near their opponent’s borders.
Laaneots nonetheless added, however, that one shouldn’t rule out Russia’s grandiose, forward-looking plan for a possible war with the West.
“Just as they are not giving back those four unfortunate Kuril Islands to the Japanese out of fear that, if needed, Russia’s entire Pacific Fleet could be blocked, the same goes for Gogland,” he said. “With this heliport, they can ensure that neither NATO submarines and ships nor aircraft can access the strategically important St. Petersburg.”