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Estonian Minister Warns of Soviet Restoration

Munich, April 17 (RFE/RL) - Estonia's Foreign Minister Siim Kallas has again warned of a revival of the Soviet Union and said the West tends to be too optimistic about Moscow and its ambitions.

Kallas is currently visiting Germany. His comments were made in a lengthy interview with the leading Munich newspaper "Suddeutsche Zeitung." They expand on statements he made in Prague at the beginning of the month.

The Estonian foreign minister was asked whether his country really feared a restoration of " the imperial Soviet Union." He replied: "Estonia is genuinely afraid that the Soviet Union could be re-established."

Asked to explain, he said: "the restoration of the Soviet Union is a popular theme in the present Russian election campaign. There are broad circles which lost a lot in the collapse of the Soviet Union. And for most people, developments in Russia have not gone in a direction which would have allowed them to feel the fruits of democracy. This view, which is dangerous for us, is not just a crazy idea of some political circles. Large numbers of people share it."

Kallas was asked about his statement that the border between Russia and the Baltic states could become a "Berlin of the 90's." The interviewer said this statement revived memories of division, barbed wire and Cold War.

The Estonian foreign minister responded: "one must draw attention to facts. Estonia does not want it to come to that. We must keep a careful eye on developments which drive in that direction. I am speaking about Russia's Big Power claims and Moscow's policy in regard to Estonia."

He was asked how the West had reacted to his warnings. He said: "At times the West appears naive. We want to open the eyes of the West. I intensify things to make the trend clear."

Kallas was asked if he had also told German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel that the West was naive in the way it viewed Russia. He answered: "We spoke a great deal about Russia. I called attention to dangers which possibly are not so clearly visible from Western Europe."

He was asked what Germany could do for Estonia's security in its contacts with Moscow. Kallas said: "it is important that we are listened to, that an opinion is formed according to the facts and this is clearly presented in Moscow."

Asked what concrete matters should be presented in Moscow, he said Germany should make clear that "Estonia, like all the Baltic states, belongs to Europe and that the security of Estonia cannot be separated from that. Moscow must be told clearly that any initiative against the security and independence of Estonia damages the interests of Europe."

He was asked if Estonia wanted to be included in the first group of Central European states to be admitted to NATO. Wouldn't membership in the European Union be enough of a signal to Moscow?

The foreign minister said: "Estonia is not in a position to be able to say that the European Union is enough of a guarantee. The European Union and NATO are essential for us. We are pressing with equal power for membership in both. Naturally we understand the problems, particularly in regard to NATO. But that does not mean that we want to shelve the question."

The "Suddeutsche Zeitung" also asked Kallas about relations with the other Baltic States, Lithuania and Latvia, in regard to membership of the European Union. The interviewer asked why Estonia was pressing so much for itself to be included in the first group of central European states to be admitted to the European Union. Did this mean Latvia and Lithuania should be excluded from the first group?

Kallas answered: "Estonia is not opposed to all three Baltic states being admitted at the same time. However, the European Union says clearly that candidate-countries will be considered individually. Therefore, if the economic situations differ, the states must be treated in different ways. The country with the best situation should be admitted first."

He was asked if that view was not a breach of Baltic solidarity. He said: "it is certainly better that one should be inside instead of three remaining outside. When one is inside it is easier for the others to follow."

He was asked how the other Baltic states felt about that and said: "They are more or less against it. Latvia and Lithuania argue that the Baltic states should be viewed as a unit. Otherwise none of them have a chance."

The "Suddeutsche Zeitung" asked if an understanding was likely on this issue. Kallas replied: "That is extremely unlikely. There are certainly many areas in which we must work together. Particularly in regard to security questions. In economic matters, however, competition should be the rule."