Secretary General welcomes Estonian Prime Minister to NATO for talks on Vilnius Summit
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Prime Minister Kaja Kallas of Estonia to NATO Headquarters on Wednesday (28 June 2023) for talks to prepare for the Vilnius Summit.
Addressing last weekend’s mutiny by Wagner mercenaries, Mr Stoltenberg called it “an internal matter for Russia”, but underlined that “it demonstrates once again that President Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine is a big strategic mistake. It has deepened existing divisions and created new tensions in Russia.” At the same time, he cautioned against underestimating Russia, saying: “we must continue to support Ukraine, and we must keep our defence strong.”
The Secretary General said that since 2014, NATO has significantly reinforced its presence and readiness from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea. This includes a UK-led multinational battlegroup in Estonia – which can be rapidly reinforced up to brigade-strength – as well as fighter jets and air defence from Allies helping to protect Estonian skies. Mr Stoltenberg added that Allies have agreed a new rotational model for air and missile defence, allowing for swift transition from air policing to air defence. "At the Summit, we will take the next steps, with new regional plans, assigned forces and capabilities, and an enhanced exercise programme – all backed by over 300,000 troops on high readiness," said the Secretary General.
Support for Ukraine will be another top priority for the Summit, and Mr Stoltenberg welcomed Estonia’s leading role in providing critical aid and rallying the international community behind the Ukrainian people. He said that at the Summit, Allies will agree a multi-year package of assistance and upgrade political ties with Ukraine, bringing the country “closer to its rightful place in NATO”. Allies are also expected to agree on a more ambitious defence investment pledge, with 2 percent of GDP as a floor, not a ceiling, and the Secretary General praised Estonia for leading by example. He added that the Vilnius Summit will be the first with Finland as a first member, and that work is underway to finalise Sweden’s accession as well. "I have called another meeting of senior officials from Türkiye, Sweden and Finland next Thursday. The time is now to welcome Sweden as a full member of NATO," he said.
Finally, the Secretary General addressed the importance of NATO’s KFOR mission in Kosovo, which continues to fulfil its UN mandate impartially. "We call on both parties to refrain from anything that can further escalate tensions, and to return immediately to the EU-facilitated dialogue, which is the only way forward," he said.