TALLINN - At a meeting of the Bucharest Nine leaders with US President Joe Biden and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Warsaw on Wednesday, Estonian President Alar Karis underlined the importance of a strong transatlantic link and a need for a stronger NATO defense solution.
"We deem continued US presence in the Baltic region extremely important from the perspective of convincing deterrence," the Estonian head of state said. Russia remains a severe military threat to NATO and the alliance must take this threat seriously, according to Karis. Therefore, NATO's defense ambition must be increased ahead of the alliance's summit in Vilnius in July.
"We need to increase military defense spending together with all the allies, complete the work towards strengthening NATO's deterrence and defense posture and bring Finland and Sweden on board as new allies," he said.
Karis said that the security architecture of postwar Europe must be considered and discussed already now.
"If we want to give Europe long-lasting peace, our goal must be unambiguously clear -- no gray zones near Russia, no areas whose security is undetermined because such areas are the source of instability in the region," the Estonian head of state said. "The starting point of this discussion needs to be Ukraine, which has clearly expressed its wish to become a member of NATO. The path to membership must be outlined for Ukraine at the NATO summit in Vilnius."
Karis said there is another extremely important goal that must follow Russia's war of aggression: "We must restore the authority of international law. We can only discuss our future relations with Russia on the basis of that and only after the aggression and war crimes have been prosecuted."
The Estonian head of state supported increasing comprehensive aid to Ukraine to help the victim of Russia's aggression defend itself successfully and remove the attacker from the Ukrainian territory.
"Russia doubts how long the West is willing to support Ukraine. We can show that Russia is wrong once again. During the current critical period, much more needs to be done to aid Ukraine. The decision by the West not to allow Russia redraw the geography of Europe is also being observed by other international major powers. It is the opportunity and obligation of NATO to either make history or become history," he added.
"Russia can be expected to increase its pressure to start peace negotiations in the next few months. A peace that does not kick Russia out of Ukraine will enable the aggressor to regroup and attack again. It would mean that there is not lasting peace in Europe," Karis said.
The Estonian president and other leaders of NATO's eastern flank focused at the meeting with the US president, Joe Biden, and the NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, on comprehensively supporting Ukraine. The topics discussed at the meeting also included transatlantic security, including strengthening deterrence on NATO's eastern flank, and preparations for the NATO summit in Vilnius in July.
The Bucharest Nine format bringing together states on NATO's eastern flank consists of Estonia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary and Slovakia.