OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYesterday, Obama gave speech in Tallinn. It was the typical Obama speech: long on treacly rhetoric and short on substantive actions. In it he specifically told Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania that NATO would stand by them under Article 5, the article covering collective self defense, of the North Atlantic Treaty. That was Wednesday. Today Vladimir Putin sent his answer. As to be expected, he wasn’t shivering with fear and trepidation.

An Estonian counter intelligence official has been abducted by gunpoint and taken to Russia, public broadcasting reports.

Estonian intelligence said the incident occurred at the Luhamaa border checkpoint at around 9am this morning. The unnamed official was understood to have been investigating a case of cross border crime.

It’s been claimed smoke grenades and jamming of communication equipment was used in the altercation.

Estonia’s Foreign Ministry say they have summoned Russian ambassador to Estonia Juri Merzljakov over the incident. Estonia’s interior ministry also said they were following the issue closely, delfi.ee reports.

Back in March I discussed how Putin would go about dismantling NATO in the Baltic States, but particularly in Latvia and Estonia which have non-trivial numbers of ethnic Russians within their borders. This is why Obama’s invocation of Article 5, which will probably never come into play,while at the same time refusing to countenance stationing of a combat capable NATO force (read that as US Army) in Estonia on a permanent basis — an action the Estonians want — actually boils down to challenging Putin to act and doing nothing. Anyone with a brain had to anticipate that after the Tallinn speech that Putin was going to do something. He could not ignore the speech and retain credibility. And now he’s acted. Russian FSB agents crossed into Estonia and abducted an Estonian counter-intelligence agent. Pointedly, the action did not take place in heavily Russian northeastern Estonia but southeastern Estonia where the Russian population is less than 5%:

estonia checkpoint

The gaunlet has been tossed. Obama can either man-up (or whatever biracial, dope smoking, Hawaiian kids who grew up in wealthy white enclaves do) and take up the challenge and show his words mean something. Or he can become even more irrelevant.