TALLINN - German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has assured NATO allies in the Baltic states that they can rely on Berlin when it comes to deterring Russia.
"Germany is taking on the responsibility. And Germany is taking on a leadership role," Pistorius said on Wednesday at the Annual Baltic Conference on Defense (ABCD) in the Estonian capital Tallinn.
He also reiterated plans for the stationing of a Bundeswehr brigade in Lithuania. The plans call for 4,000 Bundeswehr men and women, as well as their families, to be permanently stationed in the country, with details to be worked out by the end of the year.
Pistorius also assured Ukraine of Berlin's long-term support in its defense against Russian forces. "We will stand by their side for as long as it takes," he said.
He warned of dire consequences should Russian President Vladimir Putin succeed in his aims. "Putin is using despicable, criminal and inhumane methods," Pistorius said.
Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur, meanwhile, called for a significant increase in military aid to Ukraine.
He said that an international donor group, which meets regularly at the US' Ramstein airbase in Germany, had so far provided Ukraine with aid worth 0.2 percent of its total gross domestic product.
Europe had not by any means done everything it can to guarantee its own security, the minister said.
Earlier, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas encouraged other NATO states to significantly increase their defense spending, following the example of the Baltic states.
She pointed to her own country, which will increase this budget item to 3.2 percent of its GDP next year. "And this is something I am also promoting at NATO level," said Kallas.
She also made a passionate plea for military service in her country, saying it was the basis of recruitment for the armed forces.
In other European countries military service is not popular, Kallas said. "Here it is the other way around. More people actually volunteer." Whole school classes went to the military and stayed together as a group of friends. "You learn a lot. It's educational. You also gain self-defense skills and everything else you need in life. And also the management skills," she said.
Representatives of the Baltic states as well as of other NATO countries and Ukraine are taking part in the ABCD.