In a statement to the press issued on Wednesday, Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE) said that a claim of his published in Finnish paper Iltalehti indicating that Estonia is weighing an alternative defense plan to NATO has been misinterpreted.
ERR has published Helme's statement in full:
"Correction to the Iltalehti article
I have not said anything implying that our government is working together with our neighbors to find an alternative to NATO. If that is how theIltalehti understood my words, then they misunderstood me. NATO is and will remain our most vital security guarantee.
My message, however, has always been — and I will maintain this as minister — that an independent people and state must also be capable of defending themselves in a situation in which international security guarantees for some reason don't function. Estonia must increase its independent defense capability.
If the leaders of two big NATO states— [U.S. President Donald] Trump and [French President Emmanuel] Macron — have drawn attention to the shortcomings of the alliance's defense capability, it is unacceptable to act as though all of that does not affect us in Estonia. Disregarding facts is very costly in national defense.
I also don't agree with those who claim that drawing attention to shortcomings in NATO's defense capability reduces the alliance's deterrence capability. Since 2016, several U.S. think tanks — most recently the Jamestown Foundation this October — have drawn attention to the fact that NATO's management structure and forces in Poland and the Baltics aren't sufficient for combating potential aggression. This situation must quickly be improved.
Our enemy is only deterred by the actual defense capability of member states.
Minister of the Interior"
Helme's statements as published in the Finnish paper Iltalehti on Tuesday night sparked broad criticism, including swift denials from Estonia's prime minister, foreign minister and defense minister as well as the chairpersons of several Riigikogu committees.
Editor: Aili Vahtla