At Sunday's meeting with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser (SDE) and Minister of Defence Jüri Luik discussed security and digital cooperation, stressing the continuation of cooperation between the EU and the U.S.
"NATO’s collective position of deterrence and defense has strengthened in the Baltic region and the U.S. is indispensable in ensuring the security of our immediate neighborhood as well as all of Europe," Ratas said according to a government press release. "We are states that share the same values, we have a strong bond and cooperation and we are grateful to the U.S. for their contributions to the safety of Europe. The decision of the U.S. administration to increase the financing of the European Reassurance Initiative by $1.4 billion is remarkable."
Ratas emphasized at the meeting that Estonia is not just expecting assistance, but also actively contributing to security — Estonia’s defense spending is at 2.17 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP), it is strengthening its independent defense capabilities and border security, and it contributes to the fight against terrorism and peacekeeping operations alongside its allies.
The Estonian prime minister also presented to Pence the digital solutions of the Estonian public sector, which have been an engine for Estonia's economic growth. The two leaders also discussed opportunities for increased cooperation in the digital and cybersecurity fieds. Ratas noted that Estonia and the U.S. have excellent cooperation in the field of cybersecurity and added that joint exercises and an exchange of information and experts provide opportunities for further enhancing it.
Ratas and Pence also discussed cooperation between the U.S. and the EU. "The Estonian presidency of the Council of the EU certainly wants to contribute to strengthening transatlantic relations and, within the framework of these relations, to the development of international trade and the fight against terrorism and cyber threats," Ratas remarked. "Making progress on the EU-U.S. free trade agreement would be strategically important for the U.S. and Europe alike."
Ratas to 'Aktuaalne kaamera': We also discussed Patriot missile system
Following their meeting at Stenbock House, the Estonian prime minister told ETV newscast "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Sunday evening that there had been talk on Sunday of deploying a Patriot missile system to Estonia, however no set dates were discussed.
Asked what Pence's message was, Ratas replied, "First of all, the meeting was businesslike, very concrete, but I would also say that it was warm and friendly. But the main message — from both sides — was that both Estonia and the U.S. are active allies in NATO. What is important for us is the security aspect; what is important for us is cooperation both in cyber as well as digital solutions. And we also naturally talked about increasing relations between Estonia and the U.S. in the fields of economics and entrepreneurship."
ERR correspondent Maria-Ann Rohemäe asked the prime minister whether there had been talk of the much-discussed Patriot missile system and whether it may be deployed to Estonia during the joint Russian-Belarusian Zapad military exercise in September, for example.
"This was discussed today," Ratas said. "There was no separate and specific talk of when it could come. There was, however, talk of the upcoming military exercise beyond the Estonian border, i.e. Zapad, and how Estonia, the U.S. and NATO alike are monitoring it and exchanging information."
"Does this mean that the Patriot system is coming?" Rohemäe asked specifically.
"This was discussed," Ratas reiterated. "There was no such sentence that it would arrive by this day and this date. But I believe that this cooperation between countries in this region at sea, in the air and on land is essential."
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Editor: Aili Vahtla