The increased allied presence in Estonia just ten months after NATO’s Warsaw summit showed that the alliance was able to react quickly to a changed environment, Defence Minister Margus Tsahkna (IRL) said on Friday. Tsahkna met with NATO deputy secretary general, Rose Gottemoeller, and commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges.
“The NATO allies have acknowledged the long-term change of the security situation in our region, and the alliance has done a good job strengthening the deterrence and defense attitude,” Tsahkna said according to a Friday press release.
Tsahkna and Gottemoeller discussed the current security situation and NATO. Gottemoeller also showed interest in Estonia’s upcoming presidency of the Council of the European Union, and expressed the wish to cooperate with Estonia within the framework of the presidency to promote NATO-EU cooperation.
Gottemoeller also visited the Tapa military base on Friday, where she met with British and French soldiers stationed in Estonia as part of the new NATO battle group. She was also given an overview of the ongoing large-scale “Spring Storm” military exercise.
According to Gottemoeller, the allied troops taking part in the exercise were part of the deterrence that NATO allies needed,. “NATO’s actions are proportional, defensive, and fully in line with international law,” she said, adding that this was the way that NATO operated today and would do so also in the future.
She thanked Estonia for its reception of the multinational NATO battle group, and said that she was very happy with the living conditions of the soldiers as well as with the “Spring Storm” exercise.
Gottemoeller is attending the 2017 Lennart Meri Conference, where she will also speak this weekend.
Tsahkna to Hodges: Presence of U.S. Army still important
At his meeting with the commander of the American armed forces in Europe, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, Tsahkna said that the presence of the U.S. Army in the Baltic region continued to be important to Estonia.
“As of 2014, thousands of U.S. soldiers have participated in exercises in Estonia under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Hodges. During that time the ability of our countries’ units to work together has improved considerably,” Tsahkna was quoted by spokespeople as saying.
The meeting discussed the security situation and military exercises in the region as well as the presence of the U.S. Army.
“The presence of U.S. Army troops in the region and participation in exercises carried out in the Baltic countries continues to be important to Estonia,” Tsahkna said, adding that both countries would closely observe Russia’s large-scale military exercise Zapad (“West”) this autumn.
Hodges has been commander of the U.S. Army in Europe since 2014. In 2015 he was decorated by President Toomas Hendrik Ilves with the Order of the Cross of the Eagle, Second Class. Hodges is also attending this weekend’s 2017 Lennart Meri Conference.
Editor: Dario Cavegn