Prime Minister Jüri Ratas participated in the meeting of NATO heads of state and government in Brussels on Thursday which, according to Ratas, confirmed a strong transatlantic bond and like-mindedness.
Newly-elected U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron participated in the meeting for the first time, where participants jointly reaffirmed that NATO is and will remain the cornerstone of European and North American security and that the alliance would continue to focus on strengthening collective defense. The Estonian prime minister thanked Trump for his decision to continue to contribute to the European deterrence posture in 2018, according to a government press release.
More detailed discussions focued on fairer burden-sharing between the U.S., Europe and Canada, including increasing defense spending. According to Ratas, the discussions focused on increasing defense spending as expected. "The allie reaffirmed their commitment to increase defense spending to at least two percent of GDP in the years to come," he said. "This is an important signal of the shared understanding that the security situation on our continent has changed and must be addressed, including through increased defense budgets."
According to the Estonian prime minister, there has already been an important change — in 2016, more than 20 NATO member states increased their defense spending. "Estonia will continue on course and maintain its defense budget at two percent of GDP based on the agreement between allies, in particular to ensure the balanced and sustainable developmentof Estonia's national defene," he said. "Estonia does not take security for granted; we need to contribute to it daily."
A considerable part of the discussions at the meeting were devoted to the fight against terrorism. According to Ratas, the ruthless mass murder in Manchester earlier this week served as a reminder once again of the need to fight against terrorism.
"Estonia strongly supports strengthening NATO's role in the Global Coalition Against Daesh," said Ratas. "Therefore I am pleased that we reached an agreement about NATO joining the Coalition Against Daesh. As soon as the Riigikogu has approved the mandate, Estonia will increase its presence in the NATO Training Mission-Iraq and is willing to consider, at the request of our allies, increased participation in Operation Inherent Resolve.
"Just as our allies understand our security concerns, we understand their security concerns and respond decisively with support," Ratas affirmed. "In addition to the potential increase of our presence in Iraq, Estonian troops continue their work in Mali, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Kosovo."
Editor: Aili Vahtla