Minister satisfied with Baltic region defense plan ahead of Vilnius summit

Hanno Pevkur.
Hanno Pevkur. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

No outstanding points of contention surround the Baltic region's military defense plans ahead of next week's NATO Vilnius Summit, Estonian Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) says.

Appearing on ERR's Vikerraadio Friday morning, Pevkur said that the hope is that agreement on the wording of the introductory aspect of regional joint defense plans will also be hammered out before the summit in the Lithuanian capital.

With reference to the plans, the minister said: "There are two parts. The first is military defense; there are no disputes here. The second part concerns the introductory section, which requires some corrections to wording to be agreed between the member states. We still have a week to go, and we hope that there will no longer be any need to argue about this wording once in place in Vilnius."

Estonia is also heading to the summit armed with the proposal that the 2 percent of GDP defensive spend requirement for NATO membership be the very bare minimum, and not a goal in itself for any member state.

Pevkur also addressed two major issues at stake in Vilnius: Potential Ukrainian NATO membership, and Sweden's accession to the alliance.

On the first of these, the minister said: "An invitation to join being issued to Ukraine could be a difficult matter. The war is not over. What Estonia is asking for, however, is for Ukraine to get a clear road map to membership."

"This is currently being formulated and prepared by NATO ambassadors on a daily basis. We hope that it will be ready in time for Vilnius. If not, it may transpire that the heads of state will start to finalize it right there and then," the minister went on.

As for Sweden, whose accession process has been slowed by Turkey and also Hungary, Pevkur said: "It is hard to expect Swedish accession to happen while in Vilnius, and for Hungary and Turkey to make their decisions."

 "We hope that [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and [Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor] Orban will say in Vilnius that, yes, this can go ahead," he went on.

Turkish opposition mainly hinges on its discontent over what it calls Sweden's harboring of known terrorists, principally belonging to Kurdish groups, while Hungary's opposition has been reported in even vaguer terms, mainly relating to perceived criticisms of democracy in the central European country.

Hungary may also be dragging its heels over Ukraine's potential joining of the alliance over what Budapest sees as mistreatment by the authorities of ethnic Hungarian minorities in the very far West of Ukraine.

Pevkur stated that consultations had been held between Sweden and Turkey on Thursday afternoon, ahead of next week's summit.

As for the Baltic regional defense plans, Pevkur noted a Force Generation Conference held last week, where NATO partners proposed their own forces to fulfill the plans.

"This is confidential, but in general terms we can say that we are satisfied with the details," said Pevkur. "The influences derive from the war in Ukraine. The deficits that still exist in reality compared with that on paper refer to additional funds needed," he added.

Speaking to CNN earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on POTUS Joe Biden to invite Ukraine into NATO "now", even if membership does not materialize until after the war is over.

Meanwhile, the highest-ranking U.S. military chief, Gen. Mark  Mark Milley, recently said the long-anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive will be both difficult and "very bloody", though added that Ukraine has recently been "advancing steadily".


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Vikerraadio

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