Target: Estonia – Britain’s nuclear plan for Tallinn, Tartu and Viljandi By Chris Glew

October 17th, 2013 → 4:23 pm @

 

I will never forget the first time I saw a Vulcan bomber take-off. Standing next to the runway at RAF Boscombe Down (as it then was), wearing ear protectors far too large for my small ears, I watched its majestic and graceful frame ascend into the sky with a dexterity not normally seen in heavy bombers. I was awestruck. Despite the Vulcan having already retired six years before, it was (and still is) chilling to think of the destruction these aircraft might have unleashed on the world had the chess-like brinkmanship of the Cold War played out differently.

During the 1960ies, the Vulcan bomber formed the backbone of the British nuclear fleet and, at any given moment, a certain number were at a state of permanent readiness. In times of heightened tension, they could be airborne within two minutes – the shortest warning given of a Soviet nuclear attack was estimated to be three and a half minutes. Once airborne, they would have flown at over 40,000 feet over the North Sea to southern Norway until they reached the “positive release line”, beyond which they would not fly unless a given a positive command to do so.

Once this invisible line was crossed, the bombers would fly around the coast of neutral Sweden until they were over the island of Gotland where they would split up and head for their individual targets in the Soviet Union. In the first set of strikes, three bombers would have been dispatched to attack Tallinn, Tartu and Viljandi.

While Estonia was an unwilling member of the Soviet Union, from a military perspective it was a legitimate target in the event of a Soviet nuclear first-strike attack on the UK or its NATO allies. Extensively militarised and part of the Baltic Military District, it was home to at least six air interception squadrons, heavy bombers and units of the Strategic Rocket Forces.

The British Vulcans were armed with Blue Steel stand-off missiles (“stand-off” meaning they could be deployed at a safe distance for the Vulcan to be able to escape the resultant explosion) which had an explosive yield of approximately 1.1 megatons. In comparison, “Little Boy”, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, had an explosive yield of just 0.16 megatons.

There is no doubt that the effects of these strikes on Estonia would have been devastating. Approximately 350,000 people would have been killed just from the explosion itself. If you factor in the human cost of nuclear fallout for the surviving population (had there been one), this figure can be safely doubled. Fallout from the bomb dropped on Tallinn would also have reached Helsinki and Southern Finland.

Simultaneously, nuclear weapons would have been dropped on strategic targets in Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and, of course, Russia. The scale of devastation would have been catastrophic.

So next time you’re are on a plane, enjoying the sights of Estonia and the Baltic Sea from the air, remember this article and try to imagine the view with the terrifying overlay of nuclear fallout and mushroom clouds.

 

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1941 Soviet Deportations in the Baltic Nations

May 22nd, 2013 → 1:44 pm @

In May 1941, the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the Soviet Government adopted a joint directive “On the measures to cleanse Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian SSR of anti-Soviet, criminal and socially dangerous element”.  Security forces were directed to repress five categories of inhabitants of these countries, which had been occupied by the Soviet Union in June 1940 on the basis of the August 23, 1940 Stalin-Hitler Pact :

  1. activists of the “counter-revolutionary parties” as well as members of anti-Soviet, nationalistic and “White Guard” organizations;
  2. Former policemen and prison officials;
  3. former big land-owners, factory-owners and civil servants;
  4. former Army officers;
  5. the criminal element

These “measures” meant arresting all people belonging to those extremely arbitrary and ambiguous categories, sentencing them to 5-8 years in forced labour camps and then to 20 years of exile in the remotest parts of the Soviet Union.  All their property was to be confiscated.  The term “Counter-revolutionary parties” included all non- Communist political parties, the term “anti-Soviet and nationalistic organizations” all NGO-s and patriotic formations. 

All family members of the persons belonging to the first four categories were destined to 20 years of exile along with the confiscation of their property.  The same measures applied to any family whose head of household had gone into hiding. 

About 50.000 Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian nationals fell victim to the June 14th, 1941 social cleansing which, it is important to note, was carried out in peacetime.  The deportees were transported in cattle cars for thousands of kilometres and deposited as virtual prisoners in Soviet Siberia and the Far North to face hunger, cold and forced labour in primitive conditions.  Men were separated from their families and directed to prison camps where many of them were executed or died of hunger and exhaustion.  The confiscated property of the deportees was never restored by the Soviet authorities.  Most of those who finally managed to return to their homelands suffered social and economic discrimination for decades.

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Economic Woes!

February 18th, 2013 → 12:21 pm @

Study: a third of residents consider leaving Estonia by Toomas Hõbemägi

37% of Estonian residents have considered the possibility of leaving Estonia in the last six months, shows a new study by Turu-uuringute AS, writes Eesti Päevaleht.

According to the study that was commissioned by the paper, the majority of respondents who said that they have been considering leaving Estonia, said that it was because of work.

Studies or family issues were notably less important as reasons to leave Estonia.

One interesting aspect that was shown in the survey was that it is not only the poorest that are considering leaving Estonia because the interest was shown up by more or less in all income groups.

Somewhat surprisingly, people who earn more than 650 euros a month net and could be considered relatively wealthy were equally interested in job opportunities abroad.

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Estonia to keep ex-Soviet military sites as tourist attractions

February 2nd, 2013 → 6:59 pm @

“Estonia will keep some of the abandoned Soviet-era military sites on its territory as historical legacy and potentially as tourist attractions, the Estonian television reported.

Culture experts discussed on Tuesday during a meeting at the Museum of Estonian Architecture the creation of a database categorizing the hundreds of ex-Soviet military installations in order to determine their historical value and importance as potential tourism venues.

“There are opinions that all traces of the hateful Soviet legacy in Estonia must be wiped out. However, we must widen our historical vision,” Leele Välja, the director of the museum said. “We cannot keep silent about these periods or pretend they never existed.”

The participants of the meeting also agreed that some of the facilities, especially the abandoned missile bases and storages for nuclear warheads could become ‘magnets’ for tourists after repairs.

The controversy over the post-World War II period when Estonia was part of the Soviet Union remains a sore point in Russian-Estonian relations.

The Estonian authorities claim that their country was occupied by the Soviet Union along with Latvia and Lithuania between 1945 and 1991, while the Russian government and its state officials insist that incorporation of the Baltic states was in accordance with international law and gained de jure recognition by the agreements made in the Yalta and Potsdam conferences and by the Helsinki Accords.”

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For U.S. Diplomat, Culture Shock after Estonia Stint

November 20th, 2012 → 12:43 pm @

A U.S. ambassador returned home after decades abroad to disappointingly observe that his country was less technologically developed than one of Europe’s smallest states kept for decades behind the Iron Curtain.

Michael C. Polt is back in the U.S. after a 35-year diplomatic career. He most recently served as the U.S. ambassador to Estonia, where documents are signed electronically and wireless Internet is available almost everywhere, for free.

So I did spend two and a half hours at my local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in order to get my car license plates – something I should have been able to do by inserting my ID card into a license plate vending machine similar to an ATM in about 2 minutes,” Mr. Polt wrote in his blog. “Of course my gripe is not simply about waiting in line for a government service or even slow or expensive Internet access. It is my concern that what should be America’s leadership as a modern, agile, and innovative society is in a bit of a rut.“

Mr. Polt says that government services in the U.S. are much more old-fashioned than they should be in the 21st century and argues that in Estonia people have a comfortable relationship with their government because they spend very little time dealing with bureaucracy.

“Most services can be obtained sitting in a comfortable easy chair at home with a laptop, tablet or smartphone, while enjoying a favorite beverage,” Mr. Polt wrote. When returning to the U.S., he experienced that Internet access is slower and more expensive.

“In Estonia, broadband wireless access throughout the country—at little or no cost—is a given,” he wrote. “Internet is a utility, as universally available and affordable as water, electricity and indoor plumbing. We still grit our teeth paying a hefty charge for slow Internet access in top hotels in the country that invented the Internet!”

When talking about cyber security, Mr. Polt admits it is a difficult subject in the U.S. because people feel uncomfortable even thinking about a “national ID card” and a government-run database of people, both of which exist in Estonia.

“I readily share our wariness of ‘big brother’. But I have concluded that big brother already exists in multiple databases that all too readily share information to make big brother larger and more unpredictable than any single, user monitored and legally secured personal identity system would,” Mr. Polt wrote. “My friends in Estonia repeatedly demonstrated to me the utility of their ID cards as well as the electronic fingerprints they were able to monitor of those who had accessed their data, including even the police.”

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Estonia offers new assistance to Syrian refugees

October 3rd, 2012 → 9:42 pm @

(WNN) United Nations ESTONIA: Estonia’s Foreign Ministry is supporting Syrian refugees in Jordan with 50 000 euros through the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated today that the ongoing conflict in Syria has strongly influenced the situation in it neighbouring countries, which have to handle a growing influx of refugees. “As a result of violence and a very difficult humanitarian situation, hundreds of thousands of people have fled from Syria to Jordan, as well as to Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq. The international community must show its solidarity by supporting the countries that are receiving refugees,” said Foreign Minister Paet. The UNHCR has warned that if the violence in Syria does not abate by the end of the year the number of people that have fled to neighbouring countries to escape the war could reach to 710 000. The European Union is also increasing the humanitarian aid funds allocated for helping refugees.

According to the Jordanian government, currently over 200 000 refugees have arrived in Jordan from Syria. Jordan has asked the international community for help in dealing with the Syrian refugees arriving in the country and resolving the most urgent issues – access to food, clean water and other necessary items, as well as access to health care services, electricity and gas supplies, and education. The growing number of Syrian refugees over the past few months has put a huge burden on Jordan’s resources and social services in a country that has already been affected by the global economic crisis and the events of the Arab Spring.

The Syrian crisis has been going on since spring of 2011 and is growing worse every day. Two and a half million people have already been affected by the crisis and over 30 000 have perished. The number of internally displaced persons in Syria has increased to 1.2 million and there are 304 000 Syrian refugees seeking aid in neighbouring countries. Three-fourths of the Syrian refugees registered by the UNHCR are women and children.

Estonia has already given humanitarian aid to Syria on two occasions this year – 50 000 euros through the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs for the Syrian Emergency Response Fund and 50 000 euros through the International Committee of the Red Cross.

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Estonia the Land of Music

April 7th, 2012 → 3:12 pm @

Music is part of the Estonian National Soul. However, the nation’s singing tradition is no longer primarily focused on the monumental Festival of Song (Laulupidu) that takes place every five years in Tallinn the Capitol (the next Festival is in 2014). It now includes a wide range of musical events that take place year around. As the article, “Tallinn Music Week, Estonia,”  http://www.clashmusic.com/live-review/tallinn-music-week-estonia  demonstrates,  there is no limit to what kind of music one will encounter in this small ancient land.

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Another Narrow Escape

March 31st, 2012 → 5:18 pm @

After Father and I narrowly survived the British bombing raid in Ulm (the topic of my previous blog) we somehow found our way back to Bregenz, Austria

“…In Bregenz we immediately went to the employment office. This time, though, we were treated with obvious contempt. The administrator with whom Father dealt with considered him to be a deserter having fled a city that needed all the help it could get in order to restore its vital infrastructure. Eventually, we were given train tickets for Salzburg, Austria, and directed to report to a camp on the outskirts of the city.

A day later we disembarked at a railway station on the fringes of Salzburg. The camp, where we had been told to report, was only a short walking distance from the station. As we arrived at the main gate we saw hundreds of people who appeared to be refugees like us, slowly coming from the direction of the station with their belongings, making their way into the facility. To put it mildly, the place looked quite ominous and suspicious, particularly to my father. By word of mouth he had heard of concentration camps but never mentioned a word about them to me. That skepticism would shortly end up saving our lives.

The camp was quite large and made up of multiple extended rows of wooden barracks. It was surrounded by about a fifteen foot high barbed wire fence curved inward at the top, obviously meant to keep people from leaving. In addition, two armed soldiers were posted at the gate. After being liberated by the French, father told me that the place had probably been a temporary holding area for “undesirables” who later would most likely end up in a concentration camp.

Father and I were among a large group of people as we entered the camp. We had barely gone through the gate when Father stopped suddenly. He intuitively sensed danger and wasn’t about to be interned voluntarily. Without looking directly at me, he whispered to me that we would slowly turn around and walk back out of the gate. He also asked me to be as casual as possible in order not to attract any undue attention from the guards. I remember that it all came about so quickly that Father didn’t even set down either the suitcase or duffle bag he was carrying.

We were lucky because a lot of people were still entering the camp and the sentries weren’t paying much attention to what was going on around them. We walked quickly back to the railway station and boarded the next train headed back to Bregenz. I suppose that father’s newly acquired identification paper from Ulm was still working since I don’t recall anyone at the station questioning us as to where we were going. We met an Estonian refugee on the train who was on his way to a small village called Götzig, not far south from Bregenz near the Lichtenstein border. He was going to work in a shoe factory there and suggested to Father that he might also want to seek employment at the same plant when we got to Bregenz…”

Before long my father would be threatened with execution by a German military police unit close to the Swiss border. But that’s another story reserved for another blog.

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Divide and Conquer in Estonia

March 22nd, 2012 → 1:56 pm @

In no small way the aftermath of the 50 year occupation of the Baltics after WW II by the Soviets continues. “Divide and conquer in Estonia,” http://www.baltictimes.com/news/articles/30851/ , provides a classic example of how the Russian Government refuses to stay out of the affairs of its independent neighbors. I guess for them it is a form of “International Relations.”

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Wars are Unavoidable

March 20th, 2012 → 4:49 pm @

Wars are unavoidable unless we make a determined attempt to change the world’s social dynamics from “winners takes all” to “we’re all in this boat together.”

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