TALLINN – A conference of the NATO Military Committee, where the chiefs of defense of the allied nations discussed strategic developments in the alliance, ended in Tallinn on Sunday.
For the first time, the commanders of the defense forces of Finland and Sweden attended the conference of the NATO Military Committee as invitees.
"Without a doubt, a new era in global security has begun," the chairman of the Military Committee, Adm. Rob Bauer, said at the press conference that followed the session of the committee on Saturday.
"These are challenging times, times of great uncertainty. But we as allies are strengthened by the knowledge that there are 3.2 million servicemen and -women, soon to be more, who will do whatever it takes to protect every inch of allied territory and every single one of the one billion citizens who live on allied soil," Bauer said.
According to Bauer, the NATO national defense chiefs discussed topics related to collective defense and strengthening of the alliance's eastern flank, implementation of the concept of 360-degree security, support for Ukraine and NATO operations.
"Today's discussions reflected the shared understanding that we are moving in the right direction. However, we must also keep in mind that time is important," Estonia's defense chief Lt. Gen. Martin Herem said at the press conference.
Herem said he was particularly pleased to welcome the commanders of the defense forces of Finland and Sweden at the Tallinn conference, as the accession of these countries will strengthen both the defense of the Baltic Sea region and the alliance as a whole. He added that the alliance must continue to support Ukraine, as it sees that it can change the course of the war and help Ukrainians achieve peace.
Earlier on Saturday, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said in her remarks that the Kremlin's tactics against the West has a focus to force us to negotiate.
"The Kremlin uses energy to blackmail us. They have admitted that they want to make Europe 'freeze.' They have threatened with global famine. They have threatened with nuclear disasters," Kallas said.
"This is why we cannot give in one inch, and we must be prepared to be in it for the long haul," she said.
The Estonian head of government said that adaptation towards a forward defense posture for us in Estonia means first of all that we need to increase our readiness.
"Since January, we have made significant investments to increase our ammunition stocks, improve existing capabilities and develop new ones, upgrade infrastructure to host allies and also expand training areas. In addition, we are establishing a new divisional structure, which will create better conditions for a possible NATO response in our region. To achieve that, we have raised Estonia's defense spending up to 2.5 percent for the next year. And actually only yesterday we made decisions to increase it even further, up to 3 percent of our GDP," the premier said.
Kallas said Estonia also expects to see practical steps taken at NATO to implement the new forward defense posture. This means having executable NATO defense plans in place and exercised. This means a stronger NATO posture in the land, sea and air domains to deny any aggression against its territory.
Estonian President Alar Karis said in his welcome address to the participants in the conference on Friday that the deliberations to be held at the Tallinn conference will shape NATO and our collective defense for years, if not decades, to come.
"Estonia is a nation that has always believed in the importance of autonomy and self-sufficiency. Therefore, when faced with a severe security threat, we focus on raising our ability to help ourselves. So while NATO and the transatlantic bond remain the bedrock of Estonian security, Estonia fully intends to be prepared to defend itself," the president said.
Karis said that in the first six months of this year alone, the Estonian government has allocated an additional one billion euros for defense spending. Estonia is already working on developing new capabilities, enhancing its ammunition stockpiles and making its reserve army system more agile.
"We are committed to building a division in Estonia, with the support of our allies, and to enhance accommodation and training facilities for the NATO troops here," the president said.
The Military Committee (MC) is the senior military authority in NATO and the oldest permanent body in NATO after the North Atlantic Council, both having been formed only months after the alliance came into being. It is the primary source of military advice to the North Atlantic Council and the Nuclear Planning Group, and gives direction to the two strategic commanders -- supreme allied commander Europe and supreme allied commander transformation.
The Military Committee meets twice a year in the format of the session of the commanders of the defense forces at NATO headquarters in Brussels and once a year at a conference hosted by one of the allied nations.