Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser and Minister of Defense Jüri Luik were in Washington last week for meetings with their U.S. counterparts.
Minister Mikser made a joint visit to the State Department with his Latvian and Lithuanian counterparts on March 5th. They held a productive meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, where all agreed on the need to address with deeper cooperation the Kremlin’s malicious disinformation and cyber campaigns against the West. Strategies to combat Russia’s threat to broader European security and Putin’s lack of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of neighboring nations were other important topics on their agenda. They also discussed preparations for the Baltic summit President Trump will host in April and the July NATO summit in Brussels. According to ERR News on March 6th, Minister Mikser highlighted the importance of the U.S. as an ally in the Baltics, the need to strengthen the allied deterrent in the region, and hopes for progress on trade and stronger regional security as goals for the Baltic summit on April 3rd.
Minister Luik met with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis on March 7th, where NATO, Russia, and cybersecurity were again main points of discussion. Mattis’ appreciation for Estonia’s decision to support a larger NATO contingent in Afghanistan and Luik’s gratitude for continued European Deterrence Initiative funding were also emphasized. More complete coverage of the meeting is available at ERR News for March 8th.
Minister Luik held a discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a DC think tank, the following day, where he shared several insights. He noted that there has been a mental change among NATO member nations since the 2014 and 2016 NATO summits that has led to increased defense spending among allies who had traditionally avoided it. Estonia enjoys political consensus on its defense budget, which largely goes toward developing its self-defense capabilities and host nation support infrastructure to accommodate allied troops deployed to Estonian bases. He observed that training in Estonia has added value to visiting British, Danish and French forces’ readiness. Estonia offers unique forested military training grounds not found in other western European nations and that French troops have affectionately dubbed “the cold jungle.” Minister Luik’s recommendations for improving NATO’s effectiveness in the event of conflict included better facilitating the movement of allied troops across borders, streamlining NATO’s command structure and decision-making process, strengthening nations’ political will to act if necessary, and better communication to the European public on the allies’ commitment to act as one.
EANC expects more developments on these topics as the U.S.-Baltic and NATO summits approach in the coming months. Please follow this space for updates as U.S.-Estonian cooperation evolves.