Summit's decisions show NATO sees Russia as main threat

Kaja Kallas.
Kaja Kallas. Photo: Ints Kalnins / Retuers / Scanpix

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, who is attending the NATO summit in Vilnius, said Tuesday's decisions from the summit confirm that NATO remains unanimous in its view of Russia as the main threat to the allies.

«NATO has permanently transitioned to a strengthened defense posture and the implementation of the historic decisions taken in Madrid last year has quickly begun,» Kallas said, according the government's press office.

At the NATO summit in Vilnius, alliance heads of state and government endorsed new NATO defense plans, reached an agreement to increase defense spending and took decisions which set in motion the process of Ukraine's accession to NATO.

Kallas noted that the Vilnius summit is also a landmark because for the first time, Finland is at the common table as a member of NATO.

«I am also very pleased that Turkey has decided to move forward with the ratification of Sweden's NATO membership. This means that Sweden, too, will soon be a member of NATO,» said Kallas, adding that the accession of Finland and Sweden will make the security of our region much more solid.

Kallas said that on the basis of the new defense plans of NATO approved in Vilnius on Tuesday, NATO will protect every inch of its territory from the first minute, just as agreed at the Madrid summit.

«There are three defense plans in total. Estonia's defense is part of a plan that covers the Baltic Sea region and Central Europe. These plans will be backed up by specific forces and capabilities. Also, NATO's defense plans are now fully in line with Estonia's own defense plans, which we have kept adapting to the security environment for years. All this further strengthens Estonia's security,» said Kallas.

NATO leaders gave a final confirmation on Tuesday that alliance air defense systems will be regularly deployed on NATO's eastern flank.

«This is a big step in strengthening Baltic air defense and means the presence of additional air defense assets also in Estonia,» the premier said.

Kallas also expressed her satisfaction that an agreement on increasing defense expenditures was reached.

«NATO must be a credible and robust collective defense organization, today and tomorrow. To do this, we need to reboot the defense industry, especially after decades of underfunding. Estonia has been a strong advocate of the allies increasing their defense budgets. So far, the allies had agreed to strive towards defense spending of two percent of GDP. Today, this has become a binding commitment to spend at least two percent of GDP on defense,» she said.

The prime minister added that Estonia will continue working to achieve that NATO countries contribute at least 2.5 percent of GDP to defense in the long term.

«Estonia is setting an example for other allies. Our investment in defense over the next 10 years will be 3 percent of GDP every year, plus additional costs to host allies,» she said.

According to the prime minister of Estonia, NATO on Tuesday also made important decisions concerning the future and security of Ukraine.

«The allies unanimously decided that the future of Ukraine lies in NATO. Today, we agreed on steps to bring Ukraine closer to NATO membership. NATO foreign ministers will from now on regularly monitor the implementation of these steps,» she said.

The allies also removed one of the previously valid preconditions for joining NATO: Ukraine no longer needs a membership action plan, or MAP. The NATO-Ukraine Council was also established -- replacing the current NATO-Ukraine Committee -- where the allies and Ukraine, as equals, will regularly discuss important defense and security issues.

«NATO membership is the only viable security guarantee. It is the safest, most effective and most credible way to deter Russia. We owe it to the Ukrainians, who are fighting for the free world in Ukraine at the cost of their lives,» Kallas said. «All the decisions made today in support of Ukraine mean that the process of Ukraine's accession to NATO has been set in motion. This is clear support for Ukraine and another step towards strengthening the security of Europe.»