Baltics prepare to host U.S. President Obama ahead of major NATO summit

  • 2014-09-02
  • By Rayyan Sabet-Parry, RIGA

U.S. President Barack Obama (photo: twitter)

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to touch down in Tallinn early Wednesday morning before meeting with Baltic officials, sources told The Baltic Times.

Greeting the president at the airport will be Estonia's foreign minister Urmas Paet.

"The first message will be received by us and the whole world already by him coming here," Paet told Estonian television.

The second message is obviously the continuation of what Obama talked about in his speech in Warsaw, for example, as regards the level of security in all NATO countries having to be the same, regardless of where they are geographically located, or what their history is.

Obama is not the first U.S. president to visit Estonia. In 2006, George W. Bush visited Estonia. Paet said that, however, the two presidential visits are different.

"The main difference is due to the security environment where we are now in Europe. In 2006, there was no acute concern or danger with regard to the activities of Russia. Estonia was then a relatively recent member of NATO, but the environment in Europe was much calmer," said Paet.

"Today the significant difference is what we are seeing in Ukraine and Russia's general aggressive stance towards its neighbours," he said.

During the visit, Obama will meet with the Presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Later, the U.S.President is expected to deliver a speech before meeting with U.S.and Estonian soldiers at Tallinn airport. 

The Estonia visit comes a day before a major NATO summit in Wales. NATO officials are expected to discuss new security measures for the Baltics at the summit on September 4-5.

In other developments, NATO needs a clear and visible presence in eastern Europe to deter Russian aggression but Alliance members also must increase military spending after years of cuts, Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas said on Tuesday.

Roivas told Reuters in an interview that NATO should move weapons storage facilities into the former eastern bloc, increase air policing on its eastern frontier and create a rapid deployment force that could move more swiftly into place in case of a conflict.

"We have to make sure the deterrence is strong enough so it will become unthinkable for Russia to go beyond (Ukraine)," Roivas, 34, said, referring to Moscow's actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Follow The Baltic Times live tomorrow for full updates of Obama's visit