TALLINN - Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas met with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Thursday and thanked him and the United States for their work in supporting Ukraine and contributing to the security of Estonia and Europe.
Kallas and Austin discussed the strengthened US presence in Estonia, boosting NATO's deterrence and defense posture and supporting Ukraine.
"I thanked Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and the United States for their work in supporting Ukraine and strengthening NATO. Our bilateral defense cooperation and their presence here are of key importance in ensuring the security of Estonia and the alliance, deterring Russia and standing up to the threats originating from it," Kallas said after the meeting.
"US contribution to the security of Estonia and Europe is steadfast. The strengthened presence of US forces in Estonia and our region is a confirmation of the importance of allied transatlantic relations, enabling us to render NATO's defense and deterrence posture even more efficient on the eastern flank."
"It is existential for the world order based on democracy and the rule of law that Ukraine should win this war. The way Ukraine wins and Russia loses will continue to affect Europe's security for a long time. To ensure Ukraine's victory, military aid by the allies must be continued and increased, and Russia's opportunities to fund its war of aggression have to be limited," the premier said.
"We must boost the production capacity of the defense industry to give Ukraine the ammunition it needs to win the war, and to strengthen its defense and replenish supplies. I introduced to Secretary Loyd Austin an idea discussed last week with EU heads of state and government about jointly organizing defense procurements for supporting Ukraine, and I hope we will be able to soon proceed with it in the European Union," Kallas added.
Austin commended Estonia for its remarkable defense spending equaling 3 percent of GDP and its role in supporting Ukraine and receiving war refugees.
Kallas and Austin agreed that the democratic world has been an excellent team in supporting Ukraine. Topics discussed at the meeting also included the presence of a US light infantry company and a HIMARS multiple rocket launcher unit in Estonia from Dec. 16 who are cooperating here with the Estonian defense forces in the development of a division based on the agreements made at the 2022 NATO summit in Madrid.