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Raimond Kaljulaid: Without more European defense spending, NATO's future unclear

Jüri Ratas and Raimond Kaljulaid at the NATO PA forum.
Jüri Ratas and Raimond Kaljulaid at the NATO PA forum. Source: Chancellery of the Riigikogu

Head of the Estonian Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (PA) Raimond Kaljulaid, said that a strong message was heard at this week's Transatlantic Forum in Washington, particularly from U.S. representatives. With U.S. presidential elections coming up in the next year, the non-fulfilment of prior defense spending agreements, especially by some European allies, could be a very serious problem.

According to Kaljulaid, several U.S. representatives at the forum had referred to the long-standing position of expected Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and, in particular, his criticism of the European allies.

"The fact that up to now, not all NATO countries have been able to ensure defense spending levels are two percent of GDP is a serious challenge. All the more so since NATO countries have provided Ukraine with a significant amount of military equipment and ammunition – and replacing that is a difficult task. Russia has been more successful than the West in launching its military industry. Europe, including Estonia, must take these warnings about the future of NATO with deadly seriousness," Kaljulaid said.

Kaljulaid said that the failure to fulfil previous funding agreements had allowed some to call into question the commitments made by the U.S. to the other allies, including those under NATO's Article Five.

"It is very easy for the U.S, politicians, who are more skeptical about the commitments taken by the Alliance in the past, to point to the low defense spending of the European allies and ask why the U.S. should defend those allies who do not honor agreements and promises," Kaljulaid explained.

Member of the Estonian delegation to the NATO PA Jüri Ratas (Center) emphasized the importance of contributing at least two percent of GDP to defense spending. Ratas also admitted that a lot of countries are still not doing this.

Ratas went on to highlight the need to act together and even more firmly, so that Russia does not even consider attacking any NATO Member in the future. He additionally noted that support for Ukraine has to continue without allowing potential war fatigue to take hold.

The NATO PA Transatlantic Forum took place from Monday to Wednesday in the U.S. Policymakers and foreign and defense policy experts discussed transatlantic relations and the strengthening of mutual cooperation, both in the aftermath of the Vilnius Summit and in preparation for the Washington Summit to be held next year.

Russia's war in Ukraine, including the impact of sanctions against Russia on the country's economy, and the wider effect of the war on Russia, were also on the agenda at the forum.

The discussions focused on support for Ukraine, including military and economic assistance, as well as support for Ukraine's post-war reconstruction.

Swedish Minister of Defense Pål Jonson participated in the talks, to discuss Sweden's future role in NATO. Developments in the Middle East and Asia will also be up for discussion.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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