NATO will fight for every square centimeter of the transatlantic area, Estonian President Alar Karis said on Thursday after a meeting with the head of the military alliance.
Karis and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg held a meeting at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on Thursday morning, the day after the NATO-Russia Council meeting. The pair discussed security in Eastern Europe and Russia's military build-up along Ukraine's eastern border.
At a press conference after the discussion, Stoltenberg stressed NATO's unity, support for all members and said the alliance is "stronger than ever".
He said NATO is open to further dialogue with Russia "but will never compromise on fundamental principles of European security".
Stoltenberg said Estonia is a "highly valued" ally and NATO has guaranteed its security since 2004.
President Karis spoke about the situation in Ukraine and stressed Russia's military escalation has not ceased and that the alliance wants Moscow to deescalate the situation.
Karis highlighted that NATO is the "foundation of Estonia's defense and Euro-Atlantic security".
"In the past weeks and months NATO has proven its value in this regard, allies have remained strong and united. NATO stands between us and the world in which stronger nations decide the fate of smaller ones behind their backs. This was a world of secret protocols and spheres of influence, robbing scores of European nations of their sovereignty, their very right to exist. Nobody wants it back," he said.
Speaking about security in the Baltic states, he said the alliance will "fight for every square centimeter of the transatlantic area" if necessary.
@AlarKaris had a great meeting w/#NATO SG @jensstoltenberg this morning.They discussed the latest tensions created by #Russia and reiterated strong support for #Ukraine. NATO continues to strengthen its deterrence and defence.Collective defence is at the heart of this Alliance. pic.twitter.com/G5jWsITQtl— estNATO (@estNATO) January 13, 2022
Stoltenberg said NATO has increased its presence in the Baltic states in recent years with combat-ready battle groups and air policing forces and emphasized an attack on one country would be an attack on all 30 member states.
He said NATO's presence on the eastern flank is "not to provoke but to send a clear message of deterrence".
Asked if more forces could be sent to the area in the future, Stoltenburg said NATO is "constantly assessing" the situation. Yesterday, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said discussions were ongoing.
Asked a question by ERR's Brussels correspondent about fast-track options for Finland and Sweden to join the alliance, Stoltenberg emphasized this would be a political decision made by the countries themselves and then the NATO allies.
However, he said if the political will was found things could move quickly.
Both countries already "meet NATO standards in most places" and are "very close to NATO in all aspects". "But at the end of the day this is a political decision," he repeated.
Karis said he would be "very glad" if Finland and Sweden decided to join NATO, but also emphasized it could only be a decision taken by these two countries.
You can watch the press release here.
Editor: Helen Wright