NATO has the ability to protect all its allies, and at the Vilnius summit in two weeks time, the alliance will make far-reaching decisions to strengthen its deterrent and defense power, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a press conference with Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) on Wednesday.
"There are only two weeks left until the NATO summit in Vilnius. Where we will take far-reaching decisions to bolster our deterrent and defense and step up our support for Ukraine," Stoltenberg said.
"Since 2014, we have significantly strengthened our presence and readiness from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea, including in Estonia. NATO's multinational battle group in Tapa, led by the United Kingdom, helps deter any aggression. Just last month, exercise Springstorm [Kevadtorm] demonstrated our ability to strengthen our presence in Estonia up to brigade size level," said the general secretary.
"Fighter jets and air defense from Allies also help to protect Estonia's skies. And the allies have agreed on a new rotation model for air and missile defense, allowing for a swift transition from air policing to air defense. At the summit, we will take the next steps with new regional plans. Assigned forces and capabilities and an enhanced exercise program, all backed by over 300,000 military personnel on high readiness," he said.
ERR's Brussels correspondent Joosep Värk asked Stoltenberg and Kallas if NATO's new regional defense plans will guarantee that the alliance will protect its territory from the first meter on the first day until victory should conflicts arise.
Stoltenberg said NATO has plans to defend every ally and every allied territory.
Deterrence and protection will be further strengthened by implementing the decisions of both the Madrid summit and the Vilnius meeting, he said.
"This is about assigning specific forces to specific territories and also to increase the readiness of our forces. The main purpose is actually not to fight the war, but to prevent the war. And deterrence has worked for almost 75 years," said the secretary general.
"This is partly a question of forward presence - we have also increased our presence in the Baltic region - but also about high readiness, the ability to quickly strengthen and pre-position equipment. And then we have to remember that the capabilities that we can move most quickly is the air force and the navy, which are also part of deterrence activities in the Baltic region," Stoltenberg said.
"So, yes, we're constantly assessing the need for the presence of ground troops across the alliance, including the Baltic region. But I think it's extremely important to understand that our ability to defend every inch is also linked to our ability to reinforce and have a serious deterrent, and that's what NATO a goal that will also be demonstrated in Vilnius," he added.
Stoltenberg confirmed that far-reaching decisions will be made at the Vilnius summit to strengthen deterrence and defense and to increase support for Ukraine.
Kallas said NATO's defense plans are good, but they must also work in practice.
"This is what we are doing, that the combat readiness of the troops is really not just a word on paper, but a reality. It actually requires the defense investments of all allies to increase too, to be ready readiness to fill the warehouses with ammunition and the necessary equipment. But I also agree with what was said that the alliance is ready to defend every inch of its territory," said Kallas.
ERR also asked if Lithuania and Latvia's security should be strengthened due to the arrival of Wagner's forces in Belarus.
Stoltenberg emphasized that what happened in Russia over the weekend is an internal matter that the country's leaders must deal with. He said it is too early to draw conclusions about the situation and its consequences.
"We are following and monitoring what is going on very closely. We have seen that some of these [Wagner] forces may be deployed to Belarus, but again I think it is too early to draw any final conclusions. The most important thing is that we are sending a very clear message to any potential adversary - including Moscow and Minsk - that we are there to protect every inch of Allied territory from any threat. So we have increased our presence, we will further strengthen deterrence and defense at the Vilnius summit, and then we will continue to closely monitor what is happening with Wagner's forces," the Secretary-General said.
Kallas said that Belarus is a co-aggressor in the ongoing war in Ukraine. This makes the country just as unpredictable and dangerous as Russia.
"So, clearly, our stance, our forward defensive stance has not changed in this regard either. I think we are also ready for any development," she added.
Watch the press conference below.
Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright