Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) has provided the coalition government with analysis of the effects the coronavirus pandemic have had on foreign and security policy in Estonia, including in relation to NATO and the EU, both of which could do with some improved capabilities, he said, the UN, whose security council presidency Estonia holds through May, regional cooperation, and relations with Russia and China.
The longer-term impact of the crisis depends on the longevity of the crisis itself, Reinsalu said.
"If the crisis lasts a short period of time, its effect on foreign and security policy will be moderate, however, it will have an impact and we must be ready to protect our foreign and security interests in changing circumstances," Reinsalu said, according to a foreign ministry press release.
A more drawn-out crisis could intensify existing foreign and security policy tensions, requiring continued reinforcement of NATO and EU security architecture, Reinsalu added.
In case of a longer crisis, however, it must also be borne in mind that geopolitical oppositions are likley to deepen, and the global competition for equipment and resources will increase, the foreign minister went on, .
This makes preventing a health and economic crisis from morphing into a foreign policy and security crisis all the more important, Reinsalu said.
"In order to emerge from the crisis successfully, we must cooperate and take coordinated action," Reinsalu added.
"Within the EU, our primary interest is to ensure the complete functioning of the internal market as quickly as possible."
EU needs to be better prepared
The foreign minister added that procurement difficulties that have emerged during the crisis highlighted the fact that the EU must be better prepared for situations like this. For example, the capability to produce protective equipment in Europe is required.
It is also necessary to protect companies that are having difficulties from takeovers by companies of third countries.
The key is to engage in regional cooperation to reduce the pandemic's paralysing impact on societies and the economy, especially in areas such as opening cross-border movement and organising the transport of goods, including opening strategic transit corridors and restoring land links with the rest of Europe and NATO allies, Reinsalu said.
"In order to emerge from the crisis, we must coordinate strategies, improve information exchange, and develop vital strategic links. In terms of security in this changing situation, strengthening the special relationship with US has even more strategic weight."
NATO defense capabilities also need bolstering
We must also work to make sure that transatlantic security cooperation is even more united and stronger after the crisis," Reinsalu said, adding that we must focus on further developing the defence capabilities of NATO.
"This also requires Estonia to prioritise defence spending," Reinsalu added.
Estonia continues to focus on preserving and bolstering collective security, maintaining deterrence and defence posture during and after the crisis, reinforcing cooperation between NATO and the EU, especially on military mobility, boosting cybersecurity, and containing disinformation against NATO, he said.
Discussing Estonia's UN Security Council (UNSC) membership, Reinsalu emphasised that the rapid spread of the coronavirus and resulting instability could affect international peace and security.
"In particular, the pandemic leads to a deterioration of the humanitarian situation in conflict areas, such as Syria or eastern Ukraine. This is why Estonia plans to address the issue of COVID-19 at the UNSC during its Presidency, based on the Secretary-General's call for a global ceasefire," Reinsalu said.
Estonia holds the UNSC presidency through May.
The foreign minister also noted that the crisis demonstrated the vital importance of e-solutions for the functioning of the state at various levels and in various domains.
"This crisis is a great opportunity for new digital cooperation initiatives. Among other things, Estonia has the ambition of taking a leading role in reducing the digital gap within the world."
Editor: Andrew Whyte