LIVE: Obama in Estonia for talks ahead of major NATO summit

  • 2014-09-03
  • By Rayyan Sabet-Parry

Welcome to our LIVE blog of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Estonia today

We will provide you with live updates of the president's visit as he meets with heads of state from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Refresh the page for live updates.

The meeting comes a day before a major NATO summit in Wales on September 4-5.

17:35: Obama has boarded Air Force One to depart for Wales where he'll be attending the NATO summit on September 4-5. Thanks for following the live blog.

16:46: So, what do you think of Obama's key note speech. We're getting some mixed reactions on social media.

"@BarackObama What a speech, wow! #ObamaInEstonia" tweets MarillinSal

But, Bobby Sakuta doesn't seem so impressed. Posting on twitter, he says: "What an incredibly abrupt and uncomfortable ending to a long speech full of words and very little substance."

16:33: "The basic human yearnings for justice, dignity will not go away. At time they can be silenced, but they burn in every human heart. A light that no army can ever extinguish" says a poetic Obama before ending his speech. 


16:28: "Ukraine needs more than words" says Obama, speaking about the upcoming NATO summit in Wales.

"The door to NATO membership will remain open."

16:24:  "We must stand united against Russia's aggression in Ukraine. Keep in mind Putin has ignored trying to resolve the crisis in Ukraine diplomatically," says Obama.

"Capital is fleeing, foreign investment is plummeting" adds Obama referring to EU sanctions.

"The ruble just fell to an all time low. Russia's actions in the Ukraine weakening Russia. Russia's actions are hurting the Russian people. It doesn't have to be this way. We have no interests in weakening Russia. It's a nation with a rich history and remarkable people:

16: 20: "You lost your independence once before, with NATO you'll never lose it again," says Obama before loud applause in Tallinn.

16:17: Strong comments from Obama: "We will not accept Russia occupation and illegal annexation of Crimea or any part of Ukraine," says Obama

"We will stand firm and united to meet the test of this moment. We will defend our NAT(O allies and that means every ally.

"The defense of Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius is just as important as the defense of Berlin, Paris and London."


16:14: Obama says pro Russia rebels in Ukraine trained and financed by Russia

"These are the facts," says Obama

16:12: "Our NATO alliance isn't aimed against any nation," says Obama

"Countries like Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania are not post Soviet territories. Your sovereign and independent nations with the right to make your own decisions"

16:09: Obama is delivering a keynote speech in Tallinn.


15:50: Obama was very diplomatic in his press conference in Tallinn today, Eastern European expert and university lecturer Maris Cepuritis has said.

The expert points out that one of the most important aspects of Obama's address was the pledge of deploying an airforce unit at the Amari Air Base in Estonia.

''Of course, discussions on this matter will continue, but this was also a confirmation that the U.S. also has a certain amount of responsibility for the Baltic region,'' Cepuritis said.

15:28: Estonia's Prime Minister also seems happy after meeting Obama. A case of Obama fever perhaps?

"Main focus of our meeting was on Europe’s security and NATO collective defense. We see things alike," tweeted the Prime Minister.

15:21: Latvia's foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics has posted on Twitter following a meeting between Obama and Presidents of Latvia and Lithuania in Tallinn. 

"Excellent meeting between US-Baltic presidents in Tallinn, all agree: NATO Article 5 should cover conventional and nonconventional threats." tweeted Rinkevics

14:43: Obama fever has truly spread in Estonia today. Some people can't contain their excitement at seeing the U.S. President.

"OMG, i just saw Barack Obama. #LIFETIMECHANCE #WIN #Tallinn" tweets Vanessa Vaher, a football player with Estonia's women's under 19 team.

14:35: Obama has just finished meeting with Estonia's super young Prime Minister Taavi Roivas, 34. We're guessing NATO, Ukraine and Russia was high on the agenda.

Now, the President will meet with Latvian and Lithuanian heads of state at this beautiful museum (photo below). You gotta love Tallinn.

13:59: This just in from our deputy editor Rayyan Sabet-Parry

’We will not be intimidated’ says Obama in Estonia amid beheading of U.S. journalist

13:35: UPDATE: The Lithuania Tribune reports that one of the leading news portals in the Baltics, has been subjected to cyber attacks during Obama's visit in Estonia.

13:14: Estonia's ministry of foreign affairs tells us Obama is headed to his next destination to meet with 34 year old Estonian Prime Minister, Taavi Roivas. Thirty....four.

13:02: The Baltic Times deputy editor Rayyan Sabet-Parry has this from the Obama, Ilves press conference

Russia ’violating basic principles of international law’ says Obama during Estonia visit

12:44: The Obama and Ilves press conference is finished. What do you make of his comments below?

The President is set to meet with Latvian and Lithuanian Presidents Andris Berzins and Dalis Grybauskaite later today.

12:36: Obama says he's wary of news that Ukraine and Russia have agreed to a ceasefire.

"So far it has't helped because Russia pretends it's not controlling separatists. We haven't seen a lot of follow up on announced ceasefires. If in fact Russia is prepared to stop financing army training and joining with Russian troops and is seirously about political settlement, that is what we hope for. Our preference is a strong, productive, cooperative Russia. The way to achieve that is by biding to international norms.

He adds: "There's an opprtunity here, let's see if there's follow up. 

"No realistic political settlement can be achieved if Russia says we're going to conitnue sending troops, arms under guise of separtists who are not home grown. "

12:27: Obama: "the sanctions we've applied so far have had a real effect on Russia. 

Obama says Russia is "violating basic principles of international law."

"We have to make sure international community stands behind Ukrainian economy in short term"

12:24: Ilves says Ukraine needs 'political support'

He adds that seriously wounded Ukrainian soldiers were bought to top notch facilities in Estonia. 

12:22: More Obama: "More broadly NATO needs to look at defense capabilities as a whole, make sure they're updated and resourced. There was a complacency about demands that were required to make sure NATO functions effectively." 

Obama on ISIS: "We were very clear this was very serious threat not just to Iraq but to region. The air strikes we've conducted in support of protecting Americans have born fruit. Strategy we've laid out is moving effectively.

"This won't be a one week, one month, six month proposition, because of what's happened in vacuum of's going to take time to roll them back and form regional coalition so we can reach out to Sunni tribes that ISIS has occupied.

"The bottom line is this. Our objective is clear, to degrade and destroy ISIS not just to Iraq but to the region and U.S."

"It's not only that we'll be bringing to justice those who perpetrated crimes against two fine young men, U.S will continue to lead regional and international efforts against barbaric and ultimately empty vision ISIS represents. It will take time, but it will get done"

12:12: Obama says article 5 of NATO is 'unwavering.'

"Estonia will never stand alone. As President I make sure we're fulfilling that promise. In response to Russia's actions in Ukraine we'll contribute additional aircraft to Baltic Air Policing mission. We're continuously rotating aircraft in the Baltics. 

"Additional air force units. An ideal location for exercises will be Amari air base in Estonia. With support congress and Estonian friends, we can make this happen"

"Because we've stood together, Russia has paid a heavy price for it's actions," Obama adds.

"This nation of 1.3 million truly punches above it's weight."

"The prayers of American people with Steven Sotloff. Steven was taken from us in a horrific act of violence. We cant begin to imagine agony every who loves Stephen feel, especially his mother, father and sister. Our country grieves with them. Steve's life stood in sharp contrast to those who murdered him brutally. It was Stephen who deeply loved the Islamic world.

"We will not be intimidated," Obama adds.

"Horrific acts unite as a take a fight against these terrorists. We will not forget and justice will be served."

12:06: Obama jokes Ilves knew Bruce Springsteen before he was famous.

"Estonia is one of the most great success stories. You built a vibrant democracy," he says

11:59: Speaking at a press conference, Estonia's President Ilves says: "Your visit sends a strong message,"

"We're appalled by the latest news from Iraq, we see ISIS as a serious threat to all of us and stand together with U.S on this issue."

On Ukraine, he says: "This is Russian aggression. The EU and U.S. are ready tot take further restrictive measures on Russia's behavior.

"We must also continue to support Ukraine by providing country with assistance it needs."

He adds: "We take our NATO commitment very seriously."

11:55: We're anxiously waiting for a press conference between U.S. President Barack Obama and Estonia's President Toomas Hendrik Ilves to start. Remember you can watch the press conference LIVE here

11:39: President Poroshenko's Presidential office has this to say on the Ukraine ceasefire: “The result of a conversation was an agreement on a permanent cease-fire in Donbass. There was a mutual understanding on the steps to promote peace.’’

Ukraine, the U.S. and Europe accuse Russia of dispatching soldiers and backing pro-Russian rebels in a conflict the United Nations estimates has cost at least 2,600 lives, Bloomberg reports. Russia, which is facing further sanctions as early as this week over the unrest, has repeatedly denied involvement. U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Tallinn, Estonia, before heading to this week’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in the U.K.

11:24: BREAKING NEWS: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says Ukraine and Russia have agreed to a cease fire amid the crisis in the country.

"As a result of my telephone conversation with Russian President we reached an agreement on a permanent ceasefire on Donbass." Poroshenko tweeted.

Will Obama comment on the latest developments at a press conference at 11:50am?  Watch it here

11:03: "It's an honor to visit Estonia - a nation that shows what free people can achieve together," Obama has written in a guest book in Tallinn.

"May we strengthen our friendship for future generations."

10:46: Obama meets Tallinn's citizens before meeting with Estonia's President Toomas Hendrik Ilves (photo: twitter)

10:25: There's high security in Estonia as part of the visit. A helicopter is patrolling the skies as part of the visit.

Meanwhile, staff at at an unnamed restuarant in Tallinn were required to provide their national I.D numbers so security could do background checks, public broadcasting reports.

10:16: Russia's Interfax news agency reports Russian President has spoken over the phone to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in an effort to solve the crisis in the east of the country.

"A positive development" says a CNN journalist reporting on the phone call

10:07: Obama's National Security Council have tweeted some of his schedule. Obama is set to meet with U.S. embassy staffers and their families before meeting Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves in Kadriorg

A press conference will be held at 11:50am. You can watch that here

09:56: CNN photojournalist Bill Alberter has posted this photo on Instagram showing Estonian kids waiting for U.S President Obama.

Others are staying away from the center. @fbphoenix tweets: "Obama is at Tallinn. Thank God I don't have to go to the city centre today"

09:44: Lithuania's foreign minister Linas Linkevicius has tweeted: "In #Tallinn awaiting 4lateral meeting of Presidents (#US, #EE, #LT, #LV) . Confirmation of strategic partnership in extremely important time"

09:35: Here's some photos of Obama touching down in Tallinn courtesy of

Obama was greeted at the airport by officials including Estonia's foreign minister Urmas Paet. The President is set to meet with heads of state from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania before delivering a speech at 16:10 (Baltic Time)

09:21: Obama touched down in Tallinn on the Air Force One at 6:20am. First up is a meeting with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves later today (note: Ilves grew up in New Jersey, U.S)

Here's a screenshot of Air Force One landing as the sun rises over Tallinn. The President must have got a beautiful view over the city. 

(photo: ERR)