Joint press point with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the Prime Minister of Estonia, Taavi Rõivas
Prime Minister, it is a great pleasure to welcome you to NATO headquarters, just one week after taking office. I congratulate you on your appointment as Prime Minister, and the fact that you decided to visit NATO so soon after you took office is a clear demonstration of your commitment to NATO.
It is now ten years since Estonia joined our Alliance. Throughout, Estonia has made NATO stronger, and NATO has made Estonia stronger.
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.
And you are 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 too.
We discussed the implications of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. And 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.
We have more than doubled the number of fighter aircraft allocated to our air policing mission in the Baltic States, thanks to the United States. Many European Allies have also offered additional planes, air-to-air refuelling tankers and other capabilities. And we will make sure that we have updated military plans, enhanced exercises and appropriate deployments.
As we prepare for our NATO Summit in Wales this September, we will continue to take all the necessary steps to safeguard the security and the freedom of our Allies, from the Baltic to the Black Sea. And to maintain the vital bond between Europe and North America, a bond which is the foundation of our Alliance.
This is the task ahead.
And Prime Minister, I know that I can continue to count on your support.
Taavi Rõivas (Prime Minister of Estonia): Yes, Secretary General. Thank you, and I can fully subscribe to what the Secretary General just said. It was a fruitful discussion indeed. And it's not a coincidence that my first trip as a prime minister is to come here and meet Secretary General Rasmussen. That, overall, the security situation in our region, but not only in our region, in Europe as a whole, has changed. And the times are challenging indeed.
Of course, it's important to enhance our assistance to Ukraine both through NATO, other international organizations, and individually, all member States. And Estonia, of course, if very much committed to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and will continue to offer bilateral political and practical support.
We also, of course, spoke about Russia. Russia's illegal annexation of part of Ukraine has gravely violated international law and the principle of international relations including within NATO-Russia Council. The only way forward on this situation is to review the entire range of NATO-Russia relations and to put them on a new standing.
As Russia's intentions remain unpredictable, so more importantly we discussed the short-term measures for reassurance and the need for sustainable deterrence measures.
Let me use this opportunity also to thank the Allies who have demonstrated the solidarity by providing additional planes to Baltic air policing. This is very important. And Estonia has offered the mari air base as a second location for NATO air policing mission. And we're glad that this offer has been accepted by the Allies yesterday at the meeting also.
Estonia is willing to contribute all the means to strengthen the Alliance. For instance, are offered to host NATO's cyber-range for training and exercise need.
We will meet soon, of course, also in Tallinn, but also in Wales Summit; and have to make a decision to implement sustainable measures for deterrence on collective defence from prudent planning and exercises to boots on the ground. Such diligence would reaffirm the collective defence as the cornerstone of NATO and stress cohesion, solidarity and resolve between the Allies. I'm confident that the Alliance will live up to its task.
Secretary General, I thank you once more for the chance to exchange views and for your determination and leadership. Thank you very much.
Q: Estonian Public Broadcaster, Secretary General a question to you first, Sergey Lavrov made a statement that according to Rome Declaration that NATO has no rights to deploy additional troops or forces in eastern Europe. Do you think NATO plans are violating the Rome Declaration and is it still valid?
NATO Secretary General: 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.
Russian reporter, RIA NOVOSTI: Also about the declaration of foreign minister Lavrov. He said that Russia sent concrete questions about NATO plans to boost military presence in eastern Europe. did you receive such a request and will you answer it? And how?
NATO Secretary General: NATO has received no such questions from Russia. Frankly, this is just another piece of Russian propaganda and disinformation and it is based on a baseless interpretation of the NATO Russia founding act which we agreed with Russia in 1997. In the founding act, NATO promised to carry out our collective defence through reinforcement rather than additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces. And that is exactly what we are doing. In the same document Russia pledged to respect territorial integrity sovereignty and political independence of other states, and refrain from the threat or use of force. And that’s exactly what Russia is not doing.
Question: Teri Schultz- NPR/CBS: Just to clarify that, FM Lavrov said “we have addressed questions to NATO” and we are expecting answers. So can you clarify, that you haven’t received any questions. Also as you understand it, and you would understand it, you are not restrained by any treaties or any pledges not to have a more permanent NATO presence in any ally. To PM EST- would you need boots on the ground to reassure you?
NATO Secretary General: First of all, let me stress what I answered, I have not received questions from Russia, but anyway, these accusations are just propaganda and disinformation.And next, let me stress that we act in accordance with our documents, and as I quoted from the document, it is very clear that we will carry out our collective defence through reinforcement when its necessary. And that’s exactly what we have done. We have enhanced air policing in the three Baltic states, we have deployed AWACS aircraft to improve surveillance. You have seen more naval presence in the Black Sea. And all these steps are in full accordance with the principles to which we have subscribed in the past.
Estonian Prime Minister: Well the Foreign Ministers of NATO made an important step forward yesterday. But it’s a fact that Estonia has no NATO presence on our soil with, of course, the exception of our own armed forces. And I think it is very important that the Alliance has decided that NATO’s military authorities in near term would present a sustainable program on how to increase NATO presence to defend all allies.
Follow-up questions: unclear.
We will go to specific details in a later phase. But I personally believe that boots on the ground is a clear presence indicator.