Prime Minister Jüri Ratas and U.S. Senator John McCain meet (1)
U.S. Senator John McCain met with Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) in Tallinn on Tuesday. McCain stressed that the Baltic states had no reason to worry about the upcoming government change in the United States, and commended Estonia for its contribution to NATO’s goals.
Opening a press conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said that the United States was important to Estonia’s security. Ratas also pointed out that Estonia was one of the allies in NATO that took its commitment to defense spending of at least 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP) seriously.
Senator McCain thanked Estonia for its dedication to defense, and for its reception of American troops, and said that it was one of America’s surest allies that had turned into a success story despite the suffering that the Soviet occupation had brought.
Although the presidential elections in the United States had produced a result that came as a surprise to everybody, he was convinced that relations between Estonia and the U.S. would remain unaffected, McCain said. The senator remarked that though the U.S. would continue to demand of other allies that they increase their defense spending, Washington would remain dedicated to NATO.
McCain also mentioned cyber security, and said that Russia’s involvement in the cyber attacks on various American institutions was clear, and that several investigations had begun in the matter, including in the Senate. Though the involvement of Russian hackers was evident at this point, it was not yet clear what they had managed to influence, the presidential elections included.
Answering a question coming from daily Eesti Päevaleht about the coming U.S. administration’s potential course change in America’s attitude to Russia, McCain said that he wasn’t aware that the new government would decide against supporting the sanctions in place against the country. As long as President Vladimir Putin continued the occupation of Crimea, its activities in the eastern part of Ukraine, and its threats to other neighboring countries, the U.S. needed to react strongly, no matter who was president.
McCain said that the Baltic states had nothing to fear. The countries’ strong relationship with the U.S. began when they entered NATO, and that they wouldn’t change. He added that the message he would be taking with him back to Washington was that the military presence of the U.S. in the Baltic states needed to be permanent — though in the shape of troops rotating in and out.
McCain is on a visit to Estonia together with senators Lindsey Graham and Amy Klobuchar. They will also meet with President Kersti Kaljulaid to discuss matters of regional security as well as NATO’s plans in Estonia.
The senator will also receive the Estonian Defence Forces’ General Staff Cross of Merit from Lt. Gen. Riho Terras. McCain is awarded the decoration for his contribution to the guarantee of Estonia’s security.
The delegation of the U.S. Senate will also visit Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Georgia, and Montenegro.
Watch the press conference in full length here: