NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen visited Estonia on 19-20 January 2012 and met with President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet. The Secretary General also visited the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn and met with Minister of Defence Mart Laar.
During the visit, the Secretary General delivered a speech at the University of Talinn in which he praised Estonia’s approach in building defence while facing an economic crisis.
Mr Rasmussen stressed that maintaining an adequate level of defence speding remains essential for to show Allies stay serious about security in an age of austerity and uncertainty. That is why, he said, "I particularly value the Estonian government's decision to increase its defence spending to 2 percent of GDP this year. This is a significant achievement, and a most welcome commitment. And it sets an excellent example."
The Secretary General stressed that Estonia and its Baltic neighbours are taking innovative approaches and making valuable contributions to NATO. “You used the economic crisis as an opportunity to implement substantial defence reforms. By streamlining your military structures and making them more efficient, you were able to make substantial savings”, the Secretary General said. “You have used these savings to invest in higher priorities - in operational needs and in more useable capabilities. And that is one important lesson for the Alliance more widely.”
During the visit, the Secretary General also discussed preparations for the Alliance’s upcoming summit meeting in Chicago and thanked President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and his government for Estonia’s valuable contributions to the Alliance’s operations. One of the main issues at the Chicago summit will be the concept of Smart Defence, through which Allies increase the effectiveness of their defence spending by a greater emphasis on prioritisation, specialisation and cooperation. "The Baltic Allies show that if nations cannot spend more, they can spend better," the Secretary General said, identifying Smart Defence as a future "guiding principle for our Alliance."
NATO Secretary General praises Estonia’s commitment to Smart Defence