President Karis: The 2% defence spending pledge is no longer sufficient

  • 2023-06-06

Speaking at a meeting of leaders of countries on NATO’s eastern flank in Bratislava, President Alar Karis acknowledged those countries that have revised their strategic objectives since the Madrid summit, adapting them to the changing security situation and requirements of the alliance, and stressed the need to raise the level of defence spending. “Given the security situation at present, the pledge taken in Wales to invest at least 2% of GDP in our defence budgets is no longer sufficient,” he cautioned.

The head of state remarked that Estonia had already adopted the obligation to start spending 3% of GDP on defence as a matter of policy. “Other countries on NATO’s eastern flank are setting a similar example, but there should be a collective understanding within the alliance that new plans, new forces and new elements of management require improved capacity, more people and greater investments,” he said. “Without further developments in our capabilities, without increased funding and without boosting the readiness of our forces, we will not cope. Every analysis has shown that our current level of spending is simply not enough.”

President Karis noted that only nine member states were currently fulfilling the pledge taken in Wales to spend 2% of GDP on national defence. “All allies should set achieving that level of spending as their goal next year in Washington,” he urged, adding that behind all of these figures is a question of priorities. “As an alliance we are talking about being in a time of war, but we are spending as though we are in a time of peace,” he cautioned. “Our plans, strategies and resources are out of alignment, and if we do not come closer to resolving this in Vilnius, that will be a problem.”

President Karis also spoke about his recent visit to Ukraine, his meeting there with President Zelensky and the need to continue providing the Ukrainians with assistance of every kind, including military. “The targeting of the Kakhovka reservoir has shown once again how callous the aggressor is in regard to civilian and environmental catastrophes,” he noted. “Ahead of the Vilnius summit it is up to us to make some bold decisions and to show, as allies, our solidarity with Ukraine. That was President Zelensky’s clear wish.”

The Estonian head of state added that an enormous number of resources are required for the rebuilding of Ukraine. “The involvement of the private sector is vital in that regard,” he said. “That will not come about without security guarantees they can trust. I cannot stress too strongly how important Ukraine’s membership of NATO is in raising investments to rebuild the country.”

President Karis said that in Vilnius NATO would need to make bold decisions and take steps to pave the way for the Ukrainians to join the alliance. “Ukraine is one of the pillars upholding European security, and we cannot afford to fail in guaranteeing the country a future in our European and transatlantic families,” he remarked.

The head of state also emphasised the importance of those transatlantic links. “America’s military presence in the Baltics and in Europe as a whole is, and will remain, a vital guarantee of our security,” he said. “I view the Vilnius summit as an excellent opportunity for us to show just how strong our transatlantic ties are and just how united our alliance truly is.”

President Karis expressed his hope that 32 NATO allies would be present at the summit. “Sweden deserves its place in the alliance,” he stated. “Its accession will make the Baltic Sea significantly more secure.”

The B9 format of countries on NATO’s eastern flank incorporates Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.