TALLINN – NATO defense ministers met in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the strengthening of the alliance's deterrence and defense posture and joint financing.
The central topics of the meeting were Russia's war against Ukraine and preparations for the NATO Madrid summit.
"Russia's goals when it comes to Europe are unambiguously clear. We cannot rule out a Russian attack on NATO allies, which is why we, as NATO member states, must be prepared for this. Only credible deterrence will ensure a feeling of security, and for this, a stronger defense posture is needed on NATO's eastern flank," Estonia's Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet said at the meeting.
The Baltic countries have jointly put forward a concrete proposal for enhancing NATO's defense posture.
"Our proposal is that a military command component with units in combat readiness and additional capabilities should be permanently present in each of the Baltic countries. This would ensure the command and control of a division-sized force if necessary, and the achievement of military effects in the land, air and sea domains. In addition, there is a need for pre-positioned armaments and equipment for higher readiness reinforcements possibly arriving in Estonia. We expect clear decisions from the Madrid summit that would lead to this," Laanet said.
The defense ministers also discussed increasing NATO's joint financing and burden-sharing between the member states.
"Despite the various crises, it is necessary that each NATO member state contributes 2 percent of its budget to national defense -- this must be a minimum baseline, which Estonia has already significantly exceeded, and by 2024 our ratio will be 2.6 percent. Joint financing needs to be increased in order for us to be able to solve the challenges of the changed security situation -- in the case of Estonia, this would mean, for example, increasing the absorption capacity of reinforcement forces," Laanet said.
On the first day of the meeting, the provision of military assistance to Ukraine was discussed in a format convened by the United States.
"There was unity around the table bringing together almost 50 participating countries -- Ukraine must be supported in every way possible in order for it to be able to restore its territorial integrity. It was good to hear about new aid deliveries to Ukraine. Military assistance in the form of arms and ammunition must be swift and consistent. This is crucial for the final outcome of the war," Laanet added.
Laanet also met bilaterally with Germany's Minister of Defense Christine Lambrecht to thank Germany for its leadership in strengthening NATO's eastern wing.
In addition, a getting-acquainted meeting was held with the new minister of defense of France, Sebastien Lecornu, in which Laanet introduced the views of the eastern flank on the reinforced defense posture and thanked France for the standing presence of its units in Estonia.
A meeting of the three Baltic defense ministers with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is scheduled for Friday.