Defence Minister: Additional troops ‘development of utmost importance’
Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso said that the alliance’s announcement to bring additional forces to the Baltic States was as an extremely important development.
"This is a development of utmost importance," the minister said according to spokespeople for the Ministry of Defence. "Our allies understand that in our region NATO protects not only the security of Estonia and the Baltic States, but of all of NATO. Everybody must understand that NATO defends it borders where challenges to security exist – right now they exist in our region. Hence putting additional allied units here is absolutely sensible and welcome. We have done a lot of work to see this goal met," he added.
"The presence of allies gives us an additional assurance. Estonia has an independent defense capability to be taken seriously, which we are developing further in a consistent and systemic manner," Hanso said. "We have a political consensus to spend at least 2% of GDP on national defense, which demonstrates the whole political sector's understanding of the need to develop military national defense. Since we need a contribution also from our allies to ensure our security, we cover the costs related to their presence in addition to spending 2%. We have to be good hosts, offer the units that arrive here decent living and training conditions,” he said.
Still, the minister was cautious: "The news that we got, although very welcome, is still tentative. The official decisions as regards the placement of additional allied units in our region we will make together at the NATO defense ministers meeting in June, and we will present our decisions at the Warsaw summit. A lot of work needs to be done before that," Hanso said.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that NATO was preparing to station four battalions - a force of about 4,000 troops - in Poland and the Baltic States. This is a part of the alliance's effort to reinforce its border with Russia, as Moscow is stepping up its military activity. The U.S. is likely to provide two battalions, while Germany and Britain will likely provide a battalion each, according to NATO officials.