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NATO & Estonian Security Policy

Estonia has been a member of NATO since 2004. Membership in the collective defence organisation ensures military security, allowing Estonia to participate productively in international security co-operation as well as representing the most certain guarantee of Estonia’s national defence. Active NATO membership will always remain the top priority of Estonian security and defence policy. Similarly to other NATO member states, Estonia stresses developing mobile and sustainable armed forces and enhancing its capability to contribute to international peacekeeping operations. The NATO Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, which includes the participation of seven nations, is located in Tallinn. Estonia is actively participating in the renewal of NATO’s strategic concept and is a consistent supporter of NATO’s open-door policy.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed the new Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas in his first visit to NATO Headquarters 03 April 2014 and stressed the firm commitment of the Alliance to collective defense. “As we face the most serious security crisis in a generation, we are determined to keep NATO robust, ready and agile. Estonia, like every NATO member, can count on Allied solidarity at all times and against any threat”, the Secretary General said. Speaking about the measures taken by NATO in response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, Mr. Fogh Rasmussen underlined that NATO has more than doubled the number of fighter aircraft allocated to the Alliance’s air policing mission in the Baltic States. “And we will make sure we have updated military plans, enhanced exercises and appropriate deployments”, he said.

The Secretary General also praised Estonia’s commitment to the Alliance. “It is now ten years since Estonia joined our Alliance. Throughout, Estonia has made NATO stronger, and NATO has made Estonia stronger”, the Secretary General said. ”Over the years, brave and professional Estonian troops have made a substantial contribution to our challenging mission in Afghanistan. Estonia has learnt tough lessons on cyber defence, and is now making a significant contribution to strengthen the Alliance efforts in this vital domain.”

The Secretary General said that Estonia is leading by example when it comes to investing the right amount of resources in the right defence capabilities. "Despite the economic crisis, you are spending 2 percent of your gross domestic product on defence. This shows your commitment to collective defence. And it shows that if Estonia can do it, other Allies can do it too”, Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said.

Responding to journalists’ questions on claims by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that NATO was not respecting its bilateral agreements with Russia, the NATO Secretary General said “no, of course we haven’t violated the Rome Declaration and I’m actually surprised that Russia can claim that NATO has violated its commitments, because Russia is violating every principle and international commitment it has made. First and foremost the commitment not to invade other countries. Russia has undermined all the principles of our relationship and therefore there can no longer be business as usual and to make it clear NATO’s core task is to defend our allies and this is what we are doing”.

"Russia-NATO relations are based on certain rules, particularly the Rome Declaration, under which no country has a right to deploy additional troops in East European states," Lavrov said. Under the 1997 treaty on NATO-Russian cooperation, NATO vowed to provide collective defense by using reinforcements rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces at regular bases.

On 27 May 1997 the "Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation" was signed in Paris, France. It stated "NATO reiterates that in the current and foreseeable security environment, the Alliance will carry out its collective defence and other missions by ensuring the necessary interoperability, integration, and capability for reinforcement rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces. Accordingly, it will have to rely on adequate infrastructure commensurate with the above tasks. In this context, reinforcement may take place, when necessary, in the event of defence against a threat of aggression... "

Today’s security policy challenges require NATO’s co-operation with other international organisations. NATO-European Union dialogue during the past few years has focused first and foremost on two areas: crisis management in the Balkans and increasing Europe’s military capability. Because of the European Union missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo, EU-NATO co-operation in planning and executing missions has become especially relevant. Co-operation functions on a practical working level, but it is necessary to bring it up to the political and higher military level as well.

NATO’s relations with the UN are also extremely important. By supervising and co-ordinating international civil contributions, the UN supports NATO’s activities in operation areas.

Possible dangers to Estonia’s security are mostly of a global nature, which is why Estonia values effective dialogue and co-operation in all of NATO’s partnership programmes. Especially important to Estonia are the NATO Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the NATO-Ukraine Commission, the NATO-Georgia Commission and the NATO-Russia Council, which have led to better comprehension of NATO’s goals and closer co-operation within the framework of operations. Estonia supports a flexible approach to partnership relations, which allows co-operation to take place with all nations that are tied by common values and interests. In addition, Estonia supports expanding the spectrum of topics under discussion in accordance with the concerns of the alliance. These include new security issues like cyber defence and energy security.

Estonia’s participation in NATO missions and operations

Estonia has sent many different units and specialists to crisis areas: infantry, military police, staff officers, medics, EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) specialists, air traffic controllers, military observers, transport maintenance officers and cargo handlers. In 2010 there will be over 200 Estonian Defence Forces members in various operations at any given time.

Afghanistan – Estonia began its military involvement in Afghanistan in 2002 in the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom. Since 2003, Estonia has participated in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF ), which has since become NATO’s most important mission. ISAF is the greatest and most important military operation for the Estonian Defence Forces, and in 2010 there will be up to 170 Defence Forces members participating. Most of the Estonian contingent is stationed in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province, which is thought to be a crucial area in terms of stabilising the nation. In accordance with the general international increase in contributions to Afghanistan, in 2010 Estonia has also decided to increase its civil contribution and significantly diversify its military contribution.
The co-ordination of military and civil operations is essential for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. This is why for the past few years Afghanistan has been one of Estonia’s priority nations for development co-operation. Estonia has chosen the development of the health care system in Helmand Province as the priority area for its civil contribution in Afghanistan. Estonia has had a health care expert working in Helmand since March 2008.

Kosovo (KFOR) – Estonia has participated in the NATO peace support mission in Kosovo since 1999. For the last few years Estonia has contributed staff officers to KFOR headquarters and an infantry unit of a few dozen men under the command of the Danish battalion in Mitrovica, in the northern part of Kosovo. In accordance with NATO’s decision to reduce forces in Kosovo, Estonia will stop contributing an infantry unit to Kosovo in February 2010. 

Iraq – Estonia stood in the ranks of the international coalition in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2003-2008. After ending the participation of its combat units, Estonia continues to participate in NATO’s Training Mission – Iraq (NTM-I) with two or three staff officers.

NATO Response Force – Estonia is participating in the 14th rotation of the NRF in the first half of 2010 as part of the joint infantry battalion of the Baltic states. Estonia has assigned to the Baltic Battalion one infantry company, a reconnaissance unit, staff officers, military police, and some explosives disposal experts, around 200 personnel altogether.

Support for NATO membership among Estonian citizens has remained on a high level. A survey in May 2009 showed that 71% of all respondents supported NATO membership. The outcome did not differ significantly from the results of surveys conducted in earlier years.

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Page last modified: 05-04-2014 19:16:41 ZULU