NATO ambassador: US remains critical for Estonia, Europe security

Jüri Luik (left) with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Jüri Luik (left) with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

United States involvement in European security and in NATO is critical, Estonia's ambassador to NATO Jüri Luik says, across two interviews given in the past month to defense and security publication Defense News, a high-level, United States-based weekly, while the nuclear deterrent should not be ruled in or out, Luik said, even as President Joe Biden's administration is reportedly mulling a 'no first use' policy.

Luik, a former defense minister, told Defense News that: "Our main message is that U.S. involvement in European security is crucial for us. The U.S. has unique capabilities, which no other ally has. And since our main aim is to deter Russia, we believe that we should have overwhelming capabilities that would deter any temptation for aggressive action from Russia," adding that NATO is an instrument of peace and stability, from an Estonian perspective, while the U.S. is the only nation which can bring to the table an overwhelming deterrent.

Regarding the over 92,000 Russian Federation troops amassed on Ukraine's borders and reports of a potential attack by early February, Luik said that while it was always hard to say what Russia's ultimate goals might be, the situation is nonetheless serious, as evidenced by statements made by U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, and other NATO leaders.

The recent Okas 2021 snap exercise (an annual reservists event – ed.) and the erection of temporary border obstructions, mainly in the form of razor wire, in the past few days, was significant in its interoperability aspects and preparedness, as is the ongoing deployment of Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) personnel to Lithuania, which borders with Belarus, and most recently the around 100 Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) personnel being dispatched to Poland, which also borders Belarus and has seen the brunt of the migratory pressure more recently.

As to the use of nuclear weapons, Luik said that: "If you look at our threat picture, the likelihood of a conventional attack is higher than the likelihood of a nuclear attack. We believe that the present policy maintains the unpredictability of a response, including a nuclear response, which forces the adversary to think," adding that this makes a potential attack on Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania more challenging.

The rest of the interview looked at China, the recent U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the EU and Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) projects, Estonia's famed cyber capabilities and long-range defense plans, and the Black Sea region.

The interview in its entirety is here.

NFU as its name suggests involves a  nuclear power pledging not to use nuclear weapons in warfare, unless first attacked by a nuclear power using nuclear weapons. Critics say the U.S. would alienate allies by taking such a stance.

Eight states have nuclear weapons and/or have successfully conducted the successful detonation of nuclear weapons at any time, and announced as much publicly: China, France, India, North Korea, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, the U.K., and the U.S., while Israel is presumed to have nuclear weapons.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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