by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to eFP troops in Tapa, Estonia

  • 06 Sep. 2017 -
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  • Last updated: 06 Sep. 2017 17:13

(As delivered)

Prime Minister, soldiers, I’m here to salute you to thank you for your commitment and for your service. And I really mean it when I say that I’m so impressed by what you do, and the bravery of the personnel I have met here today. And what you do here is important for the safety of Estonia, but is also important for the safety of the whole NATO alliance.

So therefore, it is important for me to tell you directly today how grateful I am for the work, for the professionalism, and for your dedication in your service here in Tapa. It is not easy being away from your families and your loved ones, so your service is really very much appreciated.

I have over the last weeks met all the four battlegroups that NATO has deployed to the three Baltic countries—Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania—and to Poland. And the battlegroups—the four battlegroups in the three Baltic countries and Poland—they send a very strong message that NATO is united, NATO stands together, and more than 4,000 troops in the four battlegroups, they send the same message of unity, which is the strength of the alliance.

And the most important thing is that—the fact that the battlegroup is composed of soldiers from fifteen different nations, from both sides of the Atlantic. That makes the message very clear that an attack on one ally will trigger the response from the whole alliance. So the fact that this is a multinational battlegroup strengthens the message from the battlegroup.

The battlegroup in Estonia, here in Tapa, is one element of a bigger picture. As I mentioned, one of four battlegroups. But it is also part of an even bigger picture, because not only have we deployed four battlegroups, but we have also strengthened the coordination between the whole defence forces in Estonia and in the other Baltic countries and Poland.

And we have established eight small headquarters in the Baltic countries, Poland, and in several other countries in the eastern part of the alliance, making sure that we have good cooperation and coordination between the home defence forces and the NATO battlegroups.

We have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force, so now we have 40,000 troops in the NATO Response Force, and within the Response Force we have established a high-readiness joint task force, a Spearhead Force which is able to move within very few days.

So all together, this combination of more presence, with the NATO battlegroups in the Baltic countries and in Poland with higher readiness and higher and better capabilities when it comes to reinforcement—all of that has made NATO stronger and has made NATO able to adapt and to respond to a more assertive Russia, which we see close to our borders.

So I am extremely proud of this NATO mission. We are not here to provoke a conflict, but we are here to prevent conflict, and you can be very proud of what you do, and I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to thank you, to meet you, and to tell you how important your service is for the whole alliance.

Thank you so much for your service. We are all very proud of what you are doing every day.

Thank you.