Defense spending focus of meeting with visiting delegation from US Congress
Members of the Riigikogu's Foreign Affairs Committee, National Defense Committee and the Estonia-USA Parliamentary Group met with members of the US Senate and House of Representatives on Wednesday to discuss NATO member states' defense spending as well as international relations with Russia.
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Sven Mikser thanked the US for its support of Estonia during the latter's period of regaining independence in 1991 as well as the presence of US forces on NATO's eastern flank, the Riigikogu Press Service reported on Wednesday evening.
"Estonia is very thankful that the US helps guarantee security in our region," said Mikser, adding that every cent devoted to reinforcing the alliance's eastern flank is justified.
Mikser confirmed at the meeting that there is a consensus in the Riigikogu on matters regarding security and defense planning. "We take our promise to keep [Estonia's] defense spending at at least two percent of the GDP very seriously," he added. Members of the opposition Kadri Simson and Andres Herkel likewise stressed the existence of this consensus.
"Small states sometimes do not have much more to offer than their word," said Johannes Kert, a member of the National Defense Committee. "When joining NATO we promised to keep defense spending at at least two percent and we have kept our word. We consider this a contribution to NATO's political unity."
Other topics discussed at the meeting included Russia's propaganda war, the impact of sanctions against Russia on the economy as well as the upcoming presidential elections in both the US (Nov. 8) and Estonia (Aug. 29).
MPs representing Estonia at the meeting included Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Sven Mikser and members Anne Sulling, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, Juhan Parts and Andres Herkel, National Defense Committee member Johannes Kert as well as Estonia-USA Parliamentary Group Chairman Kadri Simson and member Kristjan Kõljalg.
The visiting delegation representing the US Congress included Sens. Christopher A. Coons, Gary Peters and Bill Nelson as well as Reps. Charlie Dent and Pat Meehan. The visiting congressmen recognized Estonia's economic success, expressed interest in cybersecurity and thanked Estonia for taking part in foreign missions.