NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg arrived at Ämari Air Base this morning where he had a press conference with Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas.
Prior to his first visit to Estonia as NATO Secretary General, former Norwegian Prime Minister made clear that NATO’s greatest responsibility is to protect and defend its allies. "NATO is here to protect and defend Estonia,” he said.
On his way, Stoltenberg's plane was escorted by two Dutch fighter jets based in Poland as part of NATO's air policing mission, while at Ämari , he was met with US, German and Estonian troops. He made clear the presence of jets and troops from many nations demonstrates “the resolve of all Allies to stand with the Baltic nations. All for one. One for all.”
At Ämari, Stoltenberg praised Estonia for spending 2 percent of its GDP on national defense under its NATO obligations. “Estonia is leading by example,” he said, calling the country “a strong and committed ally." Stoltenberg also noted Estonia's role in NATO.
"Estonian troops have made important contributions to our operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo. And you are playing a leading role in strengthening the Alliance’s cyber-defenses," he said.
Stoltenberg also addressed the increase in Russian military aircraft traffic around Estonia, and NATO countries at large. "We have seen more than 100 intercepts, which is three times more than last year," he said about the Baltic area. "If you look at the number of intercepts around NATO, we can talk about 400 intercepts, 50 percent more than last year.“
Stolenberg said that the issue is not that the Russian military flights are taking place, but the way they are being conducted. "They are not filing an air plan. Most of these flights are taking place in an international airspace, but they are close to our airspace, and they are interfering with commercial flights."
"It is a pattern that we haven't seen for many years, back to the time of the Cold War,“ Stoltenberg added.
Rõivas said that military cooperation with NATO is a priority for the Estonian government.
"It is very important to put all those things we agreed to put in place in [NATO's Wales summit in September], into effect," Rõivas said. "We need more planes in the sky, ships on the sea, and troops on the ground."
Stoltenberg will also meet today with President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Foreign Minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, and will visit NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence in Tallinn with Defense Minister Sven Mikser, as Estonia holds this week Cyber Coalition 2014, NATO's biggest ever cyber-exercise.