by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the joint press point with the President of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid
It’s great to welcome you once again to NATO Headquarters. And thank you for being here today and discussing different issues of great importance for Estonia and for NATO.
It is always a great pleasure to welcome you back to these headquarters, and I appreciate your strong personal commitment to the Alliance.
And I want to thank Estonia for showing solidarity with Allies and partners throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
For instance by donating critical medical supplies to Italy and Spain.
And supporting Georgia and Ukraine.
Estonia also makes valuable contributions to our shared security.
Your troops serve in Afghanistan, helping to create the conditions for peace.
You lead by example on defence spending.
Investing more than 2% of GDP in defence.
And next month, you will virtually host Cyber Coalition – one of the largest cyber defence exercises in the world.
Experts from Europe and North America will test their ability to defend NATO and national networks.
Such exercises are an integral part of building our resilience to cyber-attacks.
So the Alliance benefits from Estonia’s contributions.
And NATO is fully committed to Estonia’s security.
• Allied jets keep your skies safe.
• Allied ships patrol the Baltic Sea.
• And NATO’s battlegroups in the region prevent conflict and preserve peace.
So, Madame President, we also addressed the situation in Belarus.
All NATO Allies support a sovereign and independent Belarus.
We are deeply concerned by the detention and abduction of opposition figures.
Both Minsk and Moscow should respect the right of the Belarusian people to determine their own future. Through an inclusive political dialogue.
The decision to limit the diplomatic presence of Allies in Minsk is unjustified and we regret it. Allies stand together in solidarity and we urge Minsk to reconsider its decision.
NATO remains vigilant, strictly defensive, and ready to deter any aggression against Allies.
The security situation remains complex and unpredictable. So we discussed NATO 2030 and our efforts to make a strong Alliance even stronger. For the next decade and beyond.
We must ensure that we remain strong militarily, become stronger politically, and take a more global approach to the challenges we face.
President Kaljulaid, dear Kersti,
Thank you for your strong commitment to our Alliance.
I also want to thank you for the presidential decoration you have given me today.
It is a great honour for me personally.
It is also a symbol of the unbreakable bond between Estonia and NATO.
So, thank you once again. And, once again, welcome to the NATO Headquarters.
[Remarks by the President of Estonia]
OANA LUNGESCU [NATO Spokesperson]: Thank you. We can now go to our first question. And that’s Evelyn Kaldoja from Postimees. Evelyn, please ask your question and say who you ask it of. Thank you.
EVELYN KALDOJA [Postimees]: Okay. I have a question about COVID-19 and NATO. So, in Spain, somewhat surprisingly, Spain called NATO to the rescue, in Spain, when they were overwhelmed by the COVID crisis. And after that several other countries followed Spain’s example and asked for NATO’s help. So, first question to both of you and second one, maybe more to the Secretary General. Firstly, how surprised were you initially when you saw that NATO is taking up such a big role in this civilian crisis, considering that some other organisations may be better suited for that purpose? And secondly, what kind of role is NATO ready to take up now as the virus numbers grow up again? Thank you.
KERSTI KALJULAID [President of Estonia]: I have a feeling that NATO felt it needs to react for the reason that every civilian crisis results in perturbances in societies, and they always carry the risk of turning into, also, security crises. And to avoid this happening, then also military organisations which are trained and tested to fight crisis of any kind naturally come to the help of the civilian societies, also making themselves seen as a valuable asset also in the peacetime. So I’m grateful for what NATO has been doing in this context. Now with the virus numbers, do we fight with fever, or we don’t?
JENS STOLTENBERG: First of all, I think you have to remember that NATO is an organisation which always is ready for managing, tackling crisis. Readiness, response, emergency is something we are always ready to deal with.
So when we saw the COVID-19, when we saw the pandemic, of course we started to plan. But we also saw that, across the whole Alliance, NATO Allies stepped up and used their military capabilities to support the civilian efforts in combating the virus, the coronavirus, the COVID-19 pandemic. And I think it is great to see how actually men and women in uniform has been so helpful in supporting civilian efforts to deal with the pandemic.
I think you have to remember that NATO’s primary responsibility is and has been to prevent this health crisis from becoming a security crisis. So what we have focused on is, of course, that we are able to provide deterrence and defence in the midst of a health crisis, that we maintain our readiness, our missions and operations and our ability to reinforce, to help, to assist any Ally against any threat.
And the good news is that that’s exactly what we have been able to do. We have been able to uphold our operational readiness, to maintain missions and operations, to continue to exercise – we have adapted some exercises, but we continue to exercise.
So by proving that we can maintain deterrence and defence in the midst of a pandemic confirms the strength of this Alliance and the professionalism, the courage and the ability of our troops and forces in different missions and operations, from Afghanistan to, of course, battlegroups in the Baltic countries and elsewhere.
We are now, of course, also ready to deal with what many people always . . . many people always regard as a second wave, at least a new increase in the number of infected people. So we have established a stockpile that can provide support to Allies and partners. We have a plan in place to better coordinate the efforts of NATO Allies and also some financial instruments that can also support Allies.
What we saw, this, before the summer or in the . . . from March until now has actually been that Allies, troops, NATO, has been able to set up many field hospitals, transport a lot of patients and provide the practical help in many different ways to the civilian health services.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you. Then we go for our second question, to Estonian Public Broadcasting.
QUESTION: My question is: if you are concerned that in the aftermath of the COVID-19 induced economic crisis the member states might have temptation to cut their national defence expenditures? And would that weaken the Alliance? And also, what can you, and maybe more concerned member states, do to avoid that?
KERSTI KALJULAID: We can keep ourselves I mean, keep our promises to Article 3 and spend two per cent and more from Estonia. This, I believe, is the best one member state can do.
JENS STOLTENBERG: This just confirms what Estonia has done for many years: and that is that Estonia is leading by example, by spending two per cent on defence. And a clear commitment from the President just reaffirms the leadership that Estonia demonstrates when it comes to burden-sharing and defence investments.
I understand that for Allies, of course, it is a challenge. It is not always easy to invest in defence, to spend on defence, when they are in the midst of a health crisis epidemic. Having said that, the reality is that the threats and the challenges that made us agree to invest more in defence back in 2014, when we made what we call the Defence Investment Pledge to spend two percent of GDP on defence, those threats and challenges, they have not gone away. They are still there.
And second, as I just mentioned, what we have seen over the last months is that, actually, military capabilities have been extremely helpful in supporting the civilian society, in fighting the pandemic. Field hospitals, transporting equipment, disinfecting public spaces, helping in many different ways the public health services.
So we need to uphold the momentum. And the good news is that what we have seen so far is that Allies continue to invest. And over the last years, all Allies have increased defence spending, because we need to invest in our security.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much. This is all we have time for. This concludes this press point. Thank you.