Estonian Minister of Defence Jaak Aaviksoo met at the Pentagon with his US counterpart, Robert Gates on Tuesday. The two discussed mutual military co-operation and the future of NATO.
US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates expressed his sympathy for the Estonian soldiers killed in Afghanistan and thanked Estonia for its remarkable contributions to ISAF. Also discussed were different options regarding how to continue Estonian-US military co-operation in Afghanistan.
Aaviksoo pointed out that although for the duration of the elections Estonia has been the biggest per capita contributor to Afghanistan with two infantry companies, keeping up such a presence is not sustainable. “We have come to a common conclusion with the Americans that our military co-operation in Afghanistan should continue primarily with the human intelligence specialists (HUMINT) and also in the context of the NATO Training Mission Afghanistan,” said Aaviksoo.
Strategic success in Afghanistan is vital since otherwise the region will become a gathering place of mythical significance for Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists.
“At the same time the Afghanistan mission also serves the function of our collective defence – out-of-area constitutes one aspect of collective defence because they serve the protection of the interests of all the NATO member states. The problem lies in the fact that we have not yet succeeded in making this simple truth clear and understandable to the general public,” said Aaviksoo.
Also discussed at the meeting were questions relating to NATO contingency planning and defence budgets. According to Aaviksoo, the topic of contingency planning has had a higher profile for the public since President Barack Obama‘s speeches at the Strasbourg-Kehl and Prague summits. “Contingency Plans that address all considerable dangers are a natural and routine part of NATO activities,” said the Estonian Minister of Defence.
“When it comes to defence expenditures it is regrettable that only a few NATO member states have been able to fulfil their obligations. In order to give NATO the capability to offer support to its Member States when it is needed, everyone has to start investing in the creation of deployable capabilities,” said Aaviksoo.
Aaviksoo said that for Estonia the presence and visibility of the US in Europe and its mutual trust and support are very important. “Very often it is most important to consult and to confer with one another before making major decisions,” the Minister of Defence said.
Relations between NATO and Russia were also amongst the topics discussed at the meeting. “It is very clear that considering the actual strategic challenges facing Russia we have to engage in constructive co-operation with them. But that means that we have to have an elementary level of trust, which is still a long way off,” Aaviksoo stated.
Aaviksoo met with US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates