TALLINN - Estonia will continue supporting Afghanistan after withdrawal of forces in 2014 too, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said on May 28 after meeting with Deputy Secretary General of NATO Alexander Vershbow in Tallinn, reports Postimees Online. Foreign Minister Paet and Deputy Secretary General Vershbow discussed the future issues of the mission in Afghanistan, closer co-operation between allies, NATO enlargement and issues of capabilities development in ensuring security and facing new threats.
Speaking about Afghanistan, Paet said that the timetable on the transfer of security to Afghanistan agreed upon in Chicago was a necessary step towards ending the Afghanistan mission of the international security forces (ISAF). “However, the end of NATO’s military mission does not mean losing the support of the international community. The alliance continues to support the country via training, consultations and aid missions,” Foreign Minister Paet said. Deputy Secretary General Vershbow recognized Estonia’s substantial contribution in stabilizing Afghanistan.
Commenting on the indefinite extension of the Baltic air patrolling mission, Foreign Minister Paet expressed joy that NATO’s principle of smart defense was endorsed at the Chicago summit.
Vershbow also praised Estonia for contributing 2 percent of its GDP into the defense budget and its significant focus on cyber security. Paet stressed that cyber defense issues are increasingly important for Estonia and the entire alliance. “In today’s world, we must increasingly take note of threats that emerge in cyberspace. NATO must integrate cyber defense with every action to a greater extent than previously. We think that NATO’s cyber security center plays a significant role in achieving this,” he added.
Paet thinks that regular extensive exercises are the best way to increase the visibility of NATO’s forces and ensure closer cooperation. “Holding exercises in the Baltic Sea region helps to spread NATO’s deterrence more evenly on the territory of the alliance. We therefore hope that the exercise “Steadfast Jazz 2013” includes as many member states as possible,” Paet added.
He stressed that the Chicago summit sent a very strong signal to partners and aspiring states that their contribution and efforts are appreciated. “NATO must remain open to the states that wish to join the alliance. Estonia expects that the next summit will provide an opportunity to discuss the further enlargement of NATO in greater detail,” Foreign Minister Paet added.