The United States and Estonia - NATO Allies and Global Partners

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Photo: Liis Treimann / Postimees

President Obama met with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Estonian Prime Minister Tavi Roivas in Tallinn, Estonia on September 3.  The visit reinforced the close ties between the United States and Estonia, which are rooted in our shared values, ideals, and interests. 

The leaders highlighted ongoing cooperation in the following areas:

Defense and Security Cooperation

  • Operation ATLANTIC RESOLVE:  In light of the Russian military intervention in Ukraine, the United States is demonstrating its continued commitment to collective security through a series of actions designed to reassure NATO Allies and partners of America's dedication to enduring peace and stability in the region.  As a first response to demonstrate our commitment to the defense of our Allies, the U.S. augmented its participation in Baltic Air Policing by sending an additional six F-15s to the NATO mission.  Under operation ATLANTIC RESOLVE, U.S. Army Europe forces have deployed to Estonia, along with other Allies in the region, to conduct land forces training.  U.S. and Estonian troops participate in a range of other joint and multilateral exercises, including SABER STRIKE, BALTOPS, and STEADFAST JAZZ.  Estonian soldiers and defense personnel also receive technical training and strategic education in the United States.
  • NATO Allies:  As NATO Allies, the United States and Estonia are committed to each other’s defense and partner in critical areas around the world.  Estonian and U.S. troops have a long history of operational deployments in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan.  Estonia hosts the NATO Cyber Security Center of Excellence and further demonstrates its commitment to transatlantic security as one of only a few NATO Allies that meet the NATO benchmark of spending at least two percent of GDP on defense.
  • The State Partnership Program:  Estonia’s military maintains an active relationship with the Maryland National Guard through the State Partnership Program.  The two have worked jointly to train Estonian helicopter pilots to support medical evacuation efforts in Afghanistan.
  • Afghanistan:  Estonia is a stalwart supporter of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan and has committed to continue supporting NATO’s post-2014 non-combat mission.  In addition to providing $1.3 million in development assistance to Afghanistan in 2013, Estonia has pledged $500,000 annually from 2015 to 2017 to support the Afghan National Security Forces.  Tallinn is also a key port along the Northern Distribution Network, which facilitates the transport of materiel to coalition troops in Afghanistan and serves as a retrograde route for materiel leaving the theater.
  • Cybersecurity:  In December 2013, the United States and Estonia signed the U.S.-Estonia Cyber Partnership Statement on the margins of the NATO Ministerial meeting. This Statement affirms our commitment to continue working together to enhance open, interoperable, secure, and reliable information and communications infrastructure and to prioritize openness and innovation on the Internet. The United States and Estonia will continue to deepen their cooperation on Internet freedom and they will continue to develop shared programs that shape the evolution and use of the Internet.  Estonian and American Computer Emergency Readiness Teams are in regular contact to respond to cyber incidents.  Estonia also hosts the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence, which serves as a repository of expertise on cybersecurity issues.

Diplomatic Cooperation and Global Development

  • Development Cooperation:  Estonia has drawn on its transition experiences and cyber expertise to provide specialized development assistance in cybersecurity and the use of information technology to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery in the public sector.  In addition to partnering with the U.S. government to support development projects in Moldova and Georgia through the Department of State’s Emerging Donor Challenge Fund, Estonia mentors Eastern Partnership countries and other emerging democracies through the Tallinn-based e-Governance Center.  
  • Internet Freedom:  Estonia is a close partner in the Freedom Online Coalition, a group of governments collaborating to advance Internet freedom.  Estonia hosted the 2014 ministerial in Tallinn in April.  The United States and Estonia are also donors to the Digital Defenders Partnership, which provides emergency support for Internet users in repressive environments who are under threat for peacefully exercising their rights online.  The United States and Estonia co-chair the Leaders Engaged in New Democracies (LEND) network, a groundbreaking technology platform that connects key leaders in young democracies with experts on democratization from around the world.  Working under the auspices of the Community of Democracies, LEND leverages expertise from world leaders including former presidents, prime ministers, and supreme court justices to support transitions and democratic gains in dozens of countries.

Economic, Energy, and Environmental Cooperation

  • Energy Security:  Estonia enjoys a high degree of energy self-sufficiency due to its large domestic oil shale reserves, from which the country derives approximately 91 percent of its electricity.  In 2011, the United States and Estonia signed an Oil Shale Cooperation Agreement to promote research in this area. 
  • Trade, Investment, and Jobs:  Bilateral trade in goods with Estonia was $700 million in 2013.  Estonia is increasing the pace of its engagement with the United States in the technology sector; the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Director visited Estonia in August and engaged with tech companies and start-ups.  The government of Estonia has expressed strong support for the U.S.-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) negotiations.  T-TIP aims to boost economic growth in the United States and in the EU and add to the more than 13 million American and EU jobs already supported by transatlantic trade and investment.  Estonia joined the OECD in 2010.

Educational and Cultural Ties:

  • Educational Exchange Programs:  The Fulbright program in Estonia was inaugurated in 1992.  Since then, more than 180 Estonians have been educated, taught, or performed research in the United States through the Fulbright Program.  In the past 22 years, more than 170 U.S. Fulbright students and scholars have studied, researched, or taught classes in Estonia.
  • Cultural Programs:  Annual festivals such as the jazz festival, Jazzkaar (Jazz Arch), and the Black Nights Film Festival, which features North American independent films, highlight the rich cultural ties between Estonia and the United States. Arts-based cultural exchanges in the areas of music, literature and the humanities, and museum communities have strengthened ties between American and Estonian societies.
  • Professional Exchange Programs:  Since 1991, more than 500 Estonians have participated in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), the Department of State’s premier professional exchange program, which brings current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields to the United States to experience this country firsthand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts.  In addition, approximately 670 Estonians took part in privately funded professional exchanges with the United States this year, including the Summer Work Travel, Intern, Short Term Scholar, and Au Pair programs.
  • Science Cooperation:  The United States and Estonia signed a bilateral Science and Technology Agreement in 2008 that prioritized collaboration on environmental and biodiversity protection, marine science, energy, space, HIV/AIDS, engineering, and sustainable development.  Estonia and the United States are also jointly engaged in the GLOBE (Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment) program.  Currently, 79 Estonian schools collect data on soil, biometrics, and hydrology that they upload to a NASA website for use by U.S. researchers.