Defense minister: US support for NATO eastern flank is vital

Members of the HASC delegation at the Estonian defense ministry. From left, Secretary-General Kusti Salm, Rep. Ruben Gallego, defense minister Kalle Laanet, Rep. Don Bacon, Rep. Sara Jacobs.
Members of the HASC delegation at the Estonian defense ministry. From left, Secretary-General Kusti Salm, Rep. Ruben Gallego, defense minister Kalle Laanet, Rep. Don Bacon, Rep. Sara Jacobs. Source: Ministry of Defense.

The support of both chambers of the United States Congress in supporting NATO's eastern flank is vital in the light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and of overtures made towards the Putin regime from some western European countries, defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform).

Laanet said Wednesday that: "US Congress's support for Ukraine and the strengthening of NATO's eastern wing is extremely important, when one considers that the threat from Russia has not receded, while we must collectively reach a clear decision at the Madrid Summit, in order to bolster the security and readiness of our region."

"NATO has to move far onward from a so-called punitive deterrence level to a new level, meaning that instead of seeing punitive measures in the event of an attack, the enemy must realize in advance that there is no point in attacking whatsoever, since the losses incurred would be too great. To achieve this, it is necessary to strengthen NATO's stance in our region," the minister added.

Minister Laanet made his remarks after a meeting in Tallinn Wednesday, also attended by defense minister Secretary-General Kusti Salm, and with members of the  U.S. House of Representatives' House Committee on Armed Services (HASC ).

Strengthening NATO's Eastern Wing was in focus, ahead of next month's NATO Madrid Summit.

Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) attended the meeting; Gallego and Bacon are chairs of the bi-partisan Congressional Baltic support group, and thanks in large part to their work, congress has granted substantial security assistance allocations aimed at supporting Baltic capability development, the Estonian defense ministry says.

Meanwhile, the Estonian foreign ministry's Secretary-General, and former ambassador to the U.S., Jonatan Vseviov, who also met with the three representatives, tweeted: "Thank you for your strong bipartisan support. Estonian-U.S: relations are based on shared values. Now is the time to defend them."

All three representatives also stressed that any kind of peace deal to be struck with Russia on Ukraine was out of the question.

Speaking at a press conference, Congressman Gallego said that: "Noone should dictate to their own country what they should or should not do when they're being attacked, especially when they are defending their country, their culture and their way of life from an aggressor. So I think it's inappropriate for our allies, who we do work very well with, to try to enforce some type of peace o the country that has literally been at the forefront of trying to fight for freedom.

Speaking at the same press conference, Congresswoman Jacobs said: "The negotiations and what to agree to or accept will be in the hands of President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainians, who have earned the right to make that decision for themselves, and the United States' role is to make sure that we give them the tools and raise the cost on Putin so they are in the best possible position to do that negotiation."

All three representatives said that a peace agreement forced on Ukraine would result in, among other things, an emboldened Russia which would lead to an attempt to subsume the rest of eastern Europe, at the very least.

The congresspeople made their remarks in the context of recent calls from French President Emmanuel Macron to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, and Macron's warnings against "humiliating" Russia over its largely failed invasion of Ukraine, while German Chancellor Olaf Scholz recently called for an end to the war in the interests of the whole world.

Pope Francis, too, has made overtures, including to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, a man with close links to Putin, though the pontiff has tended to flip-flop on who he sees as culpable for the conflict, pointing the finger at Russia just a day after he had apparently done so with NATO and the West.

Congress has allocated US$ 180 million (around €169 million) to Baltic security for this year – reportedly a record sum.

This will primarily help develop special operations, air defense, ammunition stockpiles and maritime situational awareness, in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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