TALLINN - During a video meeting of Baltic ministers of defense on Monday, Estonian Defense Minister Juri Luik said that training exercises of allies in the Baltic region must continue.
The meeting of Luik and his Latvian and Lithuanian counterparts Artis Pabriks and Raimundas Karoblis focused on the broader impacts of COVID-19 on the domain of national defense, preparations for the forthcoming defense ministers meeting of NATO and defense cooperation between the Baltic countries, spokespeople for the Estonian Defense Ministry said.
The ministers emphasized that despite the virus related situation, Baltic defense cooperation is intense and the defense forces of the countries are in usual readiness. It is clear that security threats for our region and the need for credible deterrence have not disappeared. Also under conditions of the virus, NATO allies should find opportunities to continue cooperation in the field of training.
It is a goal for the Baltic countries to preserve the readiness of the defense forces and strengthen deterrence, which is why the international training exercises planned for 2020 and 2021 must be conducted, the three ministers said.
The Baltic ministers noted that obviously the economic impacts of coronavirus will bring with them pressure on defense budgets and defense investments.
"We must work towards defense budgets to remain at least at the current level, both when it comes to NATO member states as well as the investments in military mobility still being planned by the European Union," Luik said. "Ensuring transatlantic security and military capabilities continuously requires resources and coordinated joint effort," Luik said.
The ministers also adopted a traditional joint communique setting out the common positions of the ministers of the Baltic countries on the current security topics concerning the region.
Latvia is the lead nation of Baltic defense cooperation in 2020, which role will be taken over by Lithuania in 2021. The previous meeting of Baltic defense ministers took place in Tallinn in December 2019. Considering that the Baltic countries are among the first countries of Europe to open their borders to each other's citizens after the coronavirus crisis, the ministers expressed hope to be able to meet for a discussion face to face soon.