Moscow is getting a lot of good electoral news these days. On the same day that Donald Trump improbably won the U.S. presidential election, Estonia’s Prime Minister stepped down, creating an opening for a pro-Russian party to join the coalition. Financial Times explains:
Estonia’s prime minister has resigned after losing a no-confidence vote in parliament, raising the prospect of a pro-Russian party joining a new government at a sensitive political moment for the Baltic country after Donald Trump’s US election victory.
Taavi Roivas, at 37 one of the youngest prime ministers in Europe, lost the vote 63-28 after his centre-right Reform party was deserted by its junior partners in the governing three-party coalition.
The collapse in the government comes as tensions rise in the Baltics following the election of Mr Trump, who singled out Baltic states in his campaign for being among those who were not “paying their bills” to Nato and questioned whether he would come to their aid in case of a Russian attack. […]
More than a quarter of people in Estonia are ethnic Russians who have historically supported the Centre party, which has links to Mr Putin’s United Russia group.
If the Centre Party does indeed join the Estonian government coalition, it will be another stroke of good fortune for Russia in its neighborhood. This past month, Georgia’s parliamentary elections gave an outright majority to Georgian Dream, a party that is relatively dovish and lenient toward Moscow. In Moldova, meanwhile, a pro-Russian candidate for President comfortably took the lead in a largely pro-Western field. The runoff election in Moldova is scheduled for November 13.
If all goes as expected, these gains will be easy wins for a Russian regime bent on preserving its sphere of influence and preventing its neighbors from joining the West. It is no secret that Russia indulges in strong-arm tactics to further this goal when necessary: see, for example, the interventions in Ukraine and Georgia, or, most recently, an apparent botched coup in Montenegro. But it is much less costly for Moscow if Russian preferences can be incorporated into foreign decision making via friendly political parties or pro-Russian politicians. In the case of Estonia, Moscow is reaping the benefits of a long-term investment in the Centre Party, which signed a cooperation agreement with Putin’s United Russia in 2004.
Russia has plenty to celebrate these days, between its game-changing intervention in Syria and the gains it is seeing among pro-Russian forces in Georgia, Moldova, and elsewhere. Trump’s election and the opening in Estonia offer further evidence that the international landscape is shifting in Moscow’s favor.