NATO parliamentary assembly: Alliance committed to increasing presence in Baltic states and Poland (4)
At the 2016 Annual Session of NATO’s parliamentary assembly in Istanbul, debates concentrated on preventing terrorism, the situation in the Middle-East, increasing the alliance’s defense capability, defense spending of at least 2% of member countries’ GDP, and transatlantic relations with the incoming new administration under Donald Trump.
In connection with Russia’s recent behavior, increasing the alliance’s presence in the Baltic states as well as Poland also came up.
Laaneots: Allied troops needed, Baltic states too small to develop own air defense system and fleet
Reform Party MP and former chief of staff of the Estonian Defence Forces, Ants Laaneots, led the Estonian delegation. Laaneots said in his address to the assembly that it was important that the alliance was united, and that all its members invested in their defense, no matter their cultural and local differences.
Laaneots said that while defense spending in the alliance had been on a downward trend before Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, since 2014 this trend had stopped, and there had been a small but noticeable increase. He pointed out that Estonia was planning to spend 2.18% of its GDP on national defense in the coming year, and mentioned that just four more NATO members out of 28 met that goal, namely Greece, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Poland.
The former EDF chief of staff welcomed U.S. president-elect Donald Trump’s intention to expand the American fleet and support NATO with greater military spending, and was critical of those members who didn’t meet the alliance’s goals.
Laaneots also said that Estonia would like to see the forces stationed in the Baltic countries increase further, pointing to the fact that they were too small to create their own air defense system and fleet.
Stoltenberg: Trump's position that alliance members need to do their part understandable
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed that the alliance would continue to increase its collective defense capability in Eastern Europe. According to Stoltenberg, NATO hadn’t planned to invest as much in the area before Russia’s increasingly aggressive behavior, but the security situation in the region had changed drastically.
Stoltenberg said the alliance wasn’t increasing its presence to wage war, but to prevent it. The best way to do this, he said, was a credible deterrent.
In response to Laaneots’ address, Stoltenberg said that he understood the worries of the Baltic states and confirmed that in case of a crisis the alliance would send its fast response forces to the area immediately.
Stoltenberg showed understanding for U.S. president-elect Trump’s statements to the effect that Europe needed to do its part and increase its defense spending, ETV’s “Aktuaalne Kaamera” reported on Monday. If others expected the United States to come to their defense, their investment in the alliance had to be proportional, and the European countries needed to follow the agreement to spend at least 2% of GDP on national defense.
He added that he was looking forward to meeting Donald Trump, and expressed his conviction that the new U.S. administration would meet its obligations to the alliance.
Compliments and criticism for Turkey
The participants of the Annual Session recognized Turkey’s role in the solution of the migration crisis and expressed their solidarity for the country, but also criticized it for its actions since the attempted coup to depose President Erdogan.
The assembly also elected a new president, member of the Italian delegation Paolo Alli.