Secretary General discusses NATO Summit, Belarus, Ukraine with Estonian Prime Minister
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Prime Minister Kaja Kallas of Estonia to NATO headquarters on Tuesday (25 May 2021) to discuss preparations for the NATO Summit on 14 June. Mr Stoltenberg thanked Estonia for its strong support and commitment to the Alliance through its contributions to NATO missions and operations, its leadership on defence spending, and its provision of expertise to Allies and partners through the Cyber Centre of Excellence in Tallinn.
During their meeting, the two leaders discussed the situation in Belarus. "The forced landing of a passenger flight by Belarus was dangerous and unacceptable," said the Secretary General, adding, “this is a state hijacking and demonstrates how the regime in Minsk attacks basic democratic rights and cracks down on freedom of expression and independent media.” Mr Stoltenberg welcomed the European Union’s measures and called for an “urgent international investigation”, further saying that journalist Raman Pratasevich and his companion Sofia Sapega “must be immediately released.” The North Atlantic Council will address this issue later today, he said.
The Secretary General and the Prime Minister also addressed the situation in Ukraine. Mr Stoltenberg said that “while Russia has pulled back some troops, tens of thousands remain in and around Ukraine, as well as significant amounts of weapons”. He added that Russia continues to restrict navigation in the Black Sea, including near the Kerch Strait. The Secretary General said “this is part of a pattern of aggressive actions, which raise serious concerns.” He added that NATO will remain vigilant, continue to strengthen its deterrence and defence, and support its partners.
The two leaders also discussed the ongoing troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Mr Stoltenberg said that while an orderly and coordinated drawdown continues, NATO will remain committed to its partnership with Afghanistan. "We will continue to help the Afghan people and contribute to the peace efforts, including with continued training and funding of the Afghan security forces," he said.
Looking ahead to the Summit, the Secretary General called this “a unique opportunity to strengthen the vital bond between Europe and North America, and prepare our Alliance for the future.”