Defense minister: NATO alliance remains strong, 2020 a success

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Jüri Luik (second from left) and Maj. Gen. Martin Herem (far left) at an earlier NATO meeting. Source: Ministry of Defense

Outgoing Defense Minister Luik (Isamaa) says that the NATO alliance remains in good shape despite the challenges of the pandemic, following a meeting with Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) commander, General Tod Walters, on Friday.

Luik said via a defense ministry press release that: "Despite all the challenges of the past and present year, NATO's defense and deterrence posture and cooperation among the allies has remained strong, which demonstrates the alliance's excellent ability to adapt and react." 

Luik, along with Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) commander Maj. Gen. Martin Herem, met with Gen.Tod Walters Friday, discussing the strengthening of NATO's deterrence and defense posture in the Baltic Sea region

U.S. General: Need to keep tabs on Zapad, especially when it features conflict with NATO in its scenarios 

Russia's annual large-scale military exercise "Zapad", held in the autumn, was also on the table. 

Gen Walters noted that the security of the Baltic Sea Region is among the key priorities within NATO, and the alliance's defense and deterrence posture in the region will continue to be enhanced, he said. 

Scenarios within Zapad which envision a conflict with NATO forces also need to be kept track of, it was noted. 

EDF commander: 2020 exercises went well despite pandemic 

Maj. Gen. Herem also pointed to the importance of continuing with planned exercises and activities highlighting the example of last year's EDF and NATO cooperation in exercises in Latvia, where training continued without leading to a rise in COVID-19 infections, and also the presence of a Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) on exercise in Estonia last autumn, the first time the system had, at least in Europe, been deployed outside Germany. 

The NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland were also discussed, as was NATO Baltic Air Policing duties, which fly out of Ämari (Estonia) and Šiauliai (Lithuania).

Estonia's NATO eFP is U.K.-led and regularly features Danish, French and also Belgian units. It has been based at Tapa, east of Tallinn, since early 2017, after the battlegroup concept was agreed to in the previous year's Warsaw Summit, in turn held in response to the 2014 annexation of the Crimea from Ukraine, by the Russian Federation, and the ongoing insurgency war in the eastern part of Ukraine. 

German airforce (Luftwaffe) Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets are conducting NATO Baltic Air Policing duties out of Ämari at present. 

Jüri Luik is acting defense minister following the resignation of Jüri Ratas (Center) as prime minister earlier in the week. His replacement is likely to be from either the Reform Party or the Center Party – currently locked in coalition negotiations – but names are not likely to be forthcoming until the eve of the formation of the new administration. 

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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