Karis: Biden did not raise NATO meeting with Russia in B9 phone call

President Alar Karis.
President Alar Karis. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

President Alar Karis said a potential meeting between several large NATO allies and Russia was not directly discussed in a phone call between U.S. President Joe Biden and nine Eastern European NATO members on Thursday.

On Wednesday, it was reported in the media that Biden and Putin will hold a future meeting with several larger members of NATO. This worried smaller members of the alliance, especially those on the alliance's eastern flank and seemed like a tactic to divide NATO members.

On Thursday evening Biden held a phone call with NATO members Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, known as the "Bucharest nine" (B9).

Speaking to ERR after the call and asked about the potential meeting, Karis said: "There was no talk of that today. Rather, the view remained that everyone would be involved in this possible meeting. There was no talk of a meeting today."

Karis said Biden had given the nine countries a clear message.

"All decisions concerning security are made together, and there is no situation where there is an east wing and a west wing or a south wing and a north wing, but these decisions are made by NATO together," Karis told ERR, adding this was related to the situation in Ukraine.

Asked if the eastern wing of NATO seemed like a secondary thought, Karis said: "I think that today's telephone conversation confirmed that there is no such attitude of being big or small, but that this is being discussed with everyone."

Karis said Biden emphasized it was difficult to understand what Russia and Putin's plans are from their telephone call. But he said it is important "each step is followed by a counter-step".

"This was also emphasized by Biden: There are economic, financial levers, if necessary military ones, and if necessary, additional troops will be deployed to NATO countries, and where troops are deployed is a decision of NATO countries," the Estonian president said.

Asked if more NATO forces will be sent to countries on NATO's eastern border, Karis said: "I understand from the conversation today that if the need arises, it will be done." However, he said a timeline for this had not been discussed in the call.

Karis said Biden emphasized the "sacred importance" of NATO's Article 5 clause - collective defense - "several times" during the call.

After the conversation, Karis wrote on social media he appreciated that Biden had raised the issue of Russia's military build-up near Ukraine.

"Questions of #EuropeanSecurity need to be discussed with all members of #NATO and countries outside of the alliance have no veto power over NATO's decisions. NATO decides who is part of the alliance and how NATO defends its territory," he added.


U.S. President Joe Biden held a videocall with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday. On Wednesday a statement was released saying he would like to arrange a meeting between major NATO allies and Russia to discuss the Russian president's concerns over the alliance's expansion.

"We hope by Friday we are going to be able to say and announce to you that we are having meetings at a higher level, not just with us but with at least four of our major NATO allies and Russia to discuss the future of Russia's concerns relative to NATO writ large and whether or not we can work out any accommodations as it relates to bringing down the temperature along the eastern front," Biden said in a statement from the White House.

Russia has amassed more than 90,000 troops near Ukraine's borders, the BBC reported. U.S. and Ukrainian intel has suggested that Russia is preparing to invade the country, which aims to join western and European alliances and institutions but is a long way from doing so.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform), former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and MEP Riho Terras (Isamaa) criticized plans to hold a meeting with Putin.

Terras said: "Putin has emerged a victor from the Biden call."


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Editor: Helen Wright

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