The U.S. ambassador to Estonia — a NATO ally bordering Russia — abruptly resigned Friday, telling friends that he cannot abide President Trump’s apparent hostility toward institutions that have stabilized Europe since the end of the Cold War.
James D. Melville Jr.’s resignation comes at a crucial moment for independent countries along Russia’s western border — amid the possibility of military conflicts and as Trump suggests he is rethinking the United States’ traditional support for its allies in Moscow’s shadow.
“The honorable course is to resign,” Melville wrote on Facebook. “Having served under six presidents and 11 secretaries of state, I never really thought it would reach that point for me.”
He added: “For the President to say the [European Union] was ‘set up to take advantage of the United States, to attack our piggy bank,’ or that ‘NATO is as bad as NAFTA’ is not only factually wrong, but proves to me that it’s time to go.”
Estonia is one of several formerly Soviet-controlled countries that have joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — essentially allying with the United States and Western Europe, whose militaries protect Estonia against Russian aggression.
Situated between Russia and the Baltic sea, tiny Estonia has been especially wary of its former occupier since 2007, when a massive cyberattack from servers in Russia crippled Estonia’s government, banks and news organizations.
Since then, Russia has sent military forces into other neighboring countries — Georgia and Ukraine — raising fears that it could one day target the Baltic states.
Just before the U.S. presidential election in 2016, The Washington Post documented how NATO fighter jets routinely scrambled from an Estonian air base to meet Russian warplanes testing the country’s airspace. Both Russia and NATO have recently staged military exercises that some analysts see as thinly disguised simulations of a war over the Baltic region.
As for the leaders of the two most powerful countries in this conflict: Russian President Vladimir Putin sounds increasingly hawkish toward what many Russians see as an aggressive, expansionist military bloc on their country’s western border — and Trump sounds increasingly amenable to the Kremlin’s point of view.
A few months into Trump’s presidency, The Post asked Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid whether she was worried about a Russian military attack.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Avi Selk