Estonian PM: Historic decisions on strengthening NATO’s eastern flank made in Madrid

  • 2022-06-29
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that allies were completely united at Wednesday’s NATO summit in Madrid and there has been a significant shift in NATO’s mindset, which has led to historic decisions on strengthening NATO's eastern flank and the defense of Estonia as well as Russia being perceived as a major threat to NATO and its allies.

"I am glad that for the first time since the Cold War this is exactly how Russia is perceived in the new strategy just approved by NATO," Kallas said. Estonia considers it vital that NATO’s collective defense is considerably reinforced. "We agreed that in response to Russia’s aggression, NATO would move to a new forward defense posture that makes it possible to defend every square centimeter of NATO territory from the very first moments of an attack. To achieve this, concrete decisions were taken today on strengthening the eastern flank," the prime minister added.

Kallas said it is crucial to begin implementing this change of direction immediately after the decision by NATO heads of state and government. "For Estonia, this means cooperating with allies on developing a division-sized unit and its leadership structure, which would be ready to defend Estonia in case of a conflict," she added.

According to the prime minister, it is also very important that the allies decided to invite Finland and Sweden to join NATO. The accession protocols will be signed shortly. "Finland and Sweden joining NATO strengthens the security of us all. We have supported Finland and Sweden on their accession journey from day one and we will continue to support them throughout their process of joining NATO," Kallas said.

According to Defense Minister Kalle Laanet, there will be a divisional structure established for the defense of Estonia in the framework of NATO, and its units and headquarters will include contributions by Estonia and allies. "The divisional structure will be launched under the leadership of Estonia and in cooperation with the United Kingdom. Work on the establishment of the division will begin in the coming months. The division will be under NATO chain of command," Laanet said.

The defense minister added that the allies decided to strengthen the Eastern Flank by scaling up to brigade-sized units in those countries where the threat and need for military reinforcement are the greatest.

"The United Kingdom has decided to deploy an additional brigade to defend Estonia, with a force integration unit and some of its subunits set to be based in Estonia," Laanet said. It is crucial that elements of the United Kingdom brigade with additional capabilities will rotate to Estonia in peacetime and practice the defense of Estonia in real conditions on the ground. This ensures a high level of preparedness and comprehensive cooperation with Estonian units in crisis and in war.

Two British battalions and French and Danish companies will remain in Estonia for the foreseeable future. The Baltic air policing mission will also continue to operate in Estonia and allies can reinforce it quickly.

The defense minister added that the United States will also significantly increase its military presence in Europe. "The United States will also increase their rotating military presence in the Baltic countries. This decision would presumably include both land and air force units, including air defense. The exact details will be worked out in collaboration with allies," Laanet said.

Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology and acting Foreign Minister Andres Sutt said the summit, which included an address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, reaffirmed NATO’s continued support to Ukraine and adopted an additional support package for Ukraine. "With the new package, Ukraine will be provided with the equipment they currently need on the battlefield and the defense forces of Ukraine will be given support in switching to NATO standards and modern Western weapons systems," Sutt said. He added the summit also reiterated the continuation of NATO’s open door policy. "Ukraine and Georgia still have a NATO membership perspective as stated at the 2008 NATO summit," Sutt said.