Speaking to ERR Brussels correspondent Epp Ehand, Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) told ERR on Wednesday that the scandal triggered by Minister of the Interior Martin Helme's words about seeking an alternative to NATO had come to an end after he said he had been misquoted.
Does the Estonian government have any doubts about the functioning of NATO's collective defense policy in the sense that it should think about having a plan B?
We have no doubts about the functioning of NATO's collective defense, and Estonia is ready to fulfill its sincere commitment to the alliance in a dedicated and unconditional way if our allies need it to defend their territory. Similarly, we expect and have no reason to doubt the loyalty of other partners.
Your coalition partner, Minister for the Interior Mart Helme, gave this impression in an interview with Iltalehti. He said today that he was misquoted, but we do not know exactly what he said to the Finnish journalist in the interview. How do you think these comments will affect Estonian security?
I think the air is thick all over Europe today because of the various debates and concerns about it. I have to admit that many journalists, both in Estonia and from abroad, have asked for a comment on the position of the French president, the views of the American administration, and Turkey. The air is thick with different controversies. But I will say that the minister of the interior has given his explanations and these explanations overlap with the government's political line. The government's political line on this matter is unconditional, and it seems to me as though the divide here does not in any way run between the opposition and the coalition. There is a consensus on strategic national defense issues in Estonia and it is a very strong weapon for us.
It is one thing for journalists or think-tankers to say that NATO has problems. But it is another thing entirely when a minister from a NATO country says we are making a plan B. How do you think these comments will affect Estonian security?
If the government had alternatives and said that it was considering other alternatives, it would certainly raise questions among allies — they may ask. But if there are any thoughts and the Minister of the Interior stays within his words, whether the word was wrong or the idea was wrong or both were wrong, then it is very good that an explanation has been given. When the explanation is given, as the prime minister has said, and I have said, then there are no more questions.
So, for you, this topic is finished and you have no objections to the Conservative People's Pary of Estonia or Mart Helme, I understand?
These accusations will keep coming up, but I'm not issuing any promises for the future; I am not NATO.
That is what I mean.
As far as this particular case is concerned, I think this case can be considered closed. If we turn this into this huge internal policy chaos, then it will just end up crossing abroad over and over again.
Editor: Helen Wright