The decision to increase the presence of NATO forces in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland approved at the alliance's Warsaw summit on Friday is a long-awaited breakthrough that demonstrates the unity of NATO and increases security for Estonia, Prime Minister Taavi Roivas said.
Estonian PM: decision to increase NATO presence is breakthrough
The Warsaw summit, which is of historic significance for Estonia, approved on Friday a final decision to deploy to Estonia a multinational battalion of independent defense capability as part of a long-term planned rotation, spokespeople for the government said.
It was confirmed that Estonia's long-term partner United Kingdom will become the framework nation of the battalion not later than 2017, and that Denmark and France will also bring troops to Estonia.
«This is a breakthrough that unambiguously demonstrates NATO's solidarity and the fact that Estonia is better protected today than ever before,» Roivas said after the meeting of the North Atlantic Council. «Approximately 1,000 troops from different NATO member states being stationed in Estonia will become a new normality. This is a direct confirmation of the alliance's defense and deterrence posture – a signal that an attack on one is an attack on all and it's not worth picking a fight with us.»
Another important goal for Estonia was fulfilled today – to strengthen the stance adopted at the Wales summit 18 months ago to reinforce the initial security measures. This means continuing the air policing mission from the Amari air base, a stronger and faster NATO Response Force and a NATO staff element in Estonia.
«We also wanted NATO to continue to strengthen its response capability, including regular updates of NATO's defense plans and exercises on land, sea and in the air. The allies, including Estonia, should also improve their capacity to host NATO's support forces on their territories,» Roivas said.
The prime minister explained that the Warsaw summit is significant for Estonia because the decisions adopted there are of a permanent nature rather than temporary solutions. Heads of state and government joined forces to determine NATO's long-term defense and deterrence posture. It is a long process aimed at enhancing NATO's capability to defend its allies and to respond to threats from any direction.
Roivas stressed in his remarks at the summit that Estonia is ready to host allied forces. «After it was decided at the Wales summit 18 months ago that NATO land forces would come to Estonia, we allocated close to 41 million euros to extend the necessary infrastructure and exercise ranges,» he said. «The first barracks for allied troops was opened in Tapa two weeks ago, and the government decided a week ago to invest an additional 12 million euros to build two more barracks, the construction of which should be completed by the fall of 2017.»
As the presence of allied forces will increase significantly and Estonia has the obligation to protect the troops and their technology and information outside the Tapa barracks, the government decided to set apart more than three million euros additionally for the Ministry of the Interior and the Police and Border Guard Board in 2017-2020. The government is also prepared for additional expenditures to be specified after the Warsaw summit and after consultations with the framework nation of the battalion to be deployed to Estonia.
«Estonia is among the [five] NATO member states who meet the guideline on spending two percent of GDP – 2.16 percent, to be precise – or more, on defense, host nation support comes on top of that,» Roivas said. The prime minister added that, in the broader scheme of things, it is important that other NATO members have sensed the necessity to raise defense expenditure to 2 percent and this goal is being fulfilled with dedication.
In the light of the breakthrough achieved at Friday's meeting, the prime minister expressed his gratitude to Estonian diplomats and officials for their efforts over the last few years, including meetings with the representatives of all NATO members to clarify Estonia's position and objectives. «It was an enormous job, and a victory for all of us,» the prime minister said.