Defense Minister Jüri Luik (Isamaa) met his United States counterpart Mark Esper in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, discussing Baltic defense and the upcoming Defender 2020 large-scale military exercise.
Luik thanked Esper for the consistent contribution to Estonian security and that of the region, and for his leadership in developing NATO readiness, the Defense Ministry said via a press release.
The ministers of both countries agreed that the main security threat to NATO stems from previous activities by the Russian Federation, which has a significant time and distance advantage over NATO in moving personnel close to the Baltic region, the ministry said.
"As a result, as allies, we must constantly rehearse for crisis and conflict situations, to work in concert so that we can be as swift and effective as possible in a crisis situation," Luik went on.
Luik and Esper also stressed the importance of the US-led exercise DEFENDER-Europe 2020, with Luik noting that regional command structures and the accommodation of allies, on land, air and sea, will be rehearsed.
"We also talked with Secretary of Defense Esper, about the importance of discussing the lessons learned in addition to major training in order to further develop cooperation between our forces," Luik said.
The meeting also raised issues surrounding 5G mobile networks, with the ministers jointly recognizing the need to raise awareness of potential threats.
Luik also expressed his support for finding a political solution on the peace process in Afghanistan, and emphasized that an all-for-one principle was crucial.
Kadri Peeters, Defence Policy Counselor at the Estonian Embassy in Washington, wrote on her social media account after the meeting that there had been: "Extremely substantial meeting, great discussions on our military cooperation...Very excited to take the US-Estonia defense cooperation forward."
Extremely substantial meeting, great discussions on our military cooperation, cyber/5G + strengthening strategic dialogue. Very exited to take the US-Estonia defense cooperation forward. https://t.co/MkkmpERrEz— Kadri Peeters (@kadrip) March 3, 2020
Luik also met the Secretary of the U.S. Army Ryan McCarthy and the Secretary of the U.S Air Force Barbara Barrett, as well as speaking at a Russia-themed discussion at think tank the Brookings Institute.
"The U.S-led exercise Defender-Europe 2020 is an excellent example of a training exercise, during the course of which the deployment of additional forces to Europe is practiced. At the same time, this provides the Baltic Republics with an important opportunity to practice the operation of the regional command structure through NATO Multinational Division North, formed last year together with Latvia and Denmark", Luik said at the meeting, according to a defense ministry press release.
Luik also invited the U.S. Air Force to use Estonia's airspace to carry out various training operations, practice defence plans and increase interoperability between that country and the Baltic States, noting the need for an ability to switch from air policing – as conducted by NATO air forces from Ämari air base west of Tallinn, and Šiauliai in Lithuania.
"We are working closely together with our Baltic and Polish colleagues, in order to ensure better awareness and advance warning for the region', he added, drawing attention to the Air Operations Control Center which opened at the beginning of the year in Tallinn and ensures the continuous monitoring and control of Estonia's airspace.
Editor: Andrew Whyte