Joint press point with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and President Ilves of Estonia

  • 18 Mar. 2013
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  • Last updated 25-Mar-2013 09:17

Left to right: President Toomas Hendrik IIves of Estonia and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at their joint press point

NATO Secretary General ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Mr President, it is indeed a great pleasure to welcome you to NATO Headquarters. And to thank you for your dedication, and Estonia’s dedication to this Alliance.

Estonia is an exemplary Ally. Your troops are serving shoulder to shoulder with their NATO colleagues in one of the toughest parts of Afghanistan. They perform their duties with great courage and great skill.

I know that some of them have paid the ultimate price to help bring security and stability to that country. I pay tribute to their sacrifice.

Estonia is also committed to collective security. Your country has reached the benchmark figure of devoting 2 per cent of your economic output to defence. In tough economic times such as this, that shows real commitment, and real dedication.

This is not just about spending the right amount, but spending in the right areas. Estonia is leading the way in cyber security – a vital part of modern capabilities. The cooperative cyber-defence centre of excellence in Tallinn allows Allies to share experience and share best practices, and gives all those who participate a chance to become more secure. This is defence for the future.

Mr President, NATO is also committed to Estonia. Earlier this year, I had the chance to visit the NATO pilots, from Denmark, who are patrolling the airspace of Estonia and its neighbours. Their mission is visible proof of our dedication to your security – round the clock, and throughout the year.

So Estonia is a full and valued member of this Alliance. You play an important role in our discussions, our operations and our policies.

Mr President, I look forward to continuing that cooperation in the years to come.

TOOMAS HENDRIK ILVES (President of Estonia): (...) Well, thank you very much. Once again, I'm always happy to come to NATO. It's one of my favourite places... has been for many, many decades actually, but especially since becoming a member nine years ago.

Just a few points that we talked about. First of all, I think NATO is in good shape, despite all of the widening complaining we hear. Operations, especially ISAF, showed that NATO is able to operate in multiple theatres in a sustainable and successful way.

The crucial issue for us will be the orderly hand over of ISAF security responsibilities to the Afghans by the end of 2014. And of course, it's only natural that every military action comes to an end. And so we look forward to that end. But we will be there to the end, and as long as we're there, until the elections basically to be precise.

There's no reason to think the world will become a more peaceful place after ISAF is over. So it's also important to keep in mind that NATO has to be ready at all times to respond to future security challenges. We cannot allow NATO to run out of steam. And that's why I welcome discussions within the Alliance on how to maintain NATO's agility and interoperability after the ISAF mission has been successfully concluded.

And I think it's crucial that in all of these discussions that the voices of all NATO Allies are listened. And that in fact to operate it upon, we need to take advantage of our comparative strengths within the Alliance. That is what really makes Smart Defence work.

Secondly, I'd like to say that the transatlantic link remains strong and steadfast. It is based on solidarity, unity of purpose and collective decision making that goes on day to day and has done so decade to decade. And that is what has created a genuine and I would argue unbreakable bond between the US, Canada and European Allies. And it has been this way for generations. NATO is a truly unique organization in this regard. And it is our common home.

Two things, actually, give me considerably more confidence that I've had in the past; that I think things were even getting stronger. First of all, while it's not directly in the NATO domain, but I think they're completely intertwined, is the idea of a TAFTA or Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement that this will bind these two areas closer than they have been in areas other than the military. And we, very strongly, in Estonia, at least, support the idea of EU-US Free Trade Agreement.

And the second thing that I think is quite noticeable, though not always commented upon, but what we have seen is the slow but steady disappearance of the distinction between old and new Europe when it comes to the Alliance.

In fact, when we see... we look at the commitment of what used to be called New Europe we see that actually we do rather well and have turned out to be very good Allies. And so with the passage of time and as we come upon the tenth anniversary of our becoming allies, next April, in 2014, I hope that it will be completely disappeared.

And let me touch up something which may be more bland or even sour, but the question of burden sharing in NATO is an eternal one, as the share of military capabilities between the US and other Allies is disproportionate. And this needs to change. The commitment of different Allies to spending on military defence must become more realistic. It is not realistic to think that the US will continue to pay 75% of the cost of NATO with... with a number of countries going way, way, way below the 2% that we have all fundamentally agreed to.

Of course, we should do this in smart way. And this is one of the things that the Secretary General has been pushing for throughout his term that Smart Defence requires looking at where..... this is not spending money; but in fact spending wisely which we, in Estonia, think is a really good idea. Of course, smaller countries have to be more concerned about spending things wisely... spending money wisely. But really it is important for all of us in the Alliance to think deep and hard about do we really... I mean if we're in the Alliance, then we also have to fulfil our commitments to the Alliance. We don't really want free riders to get away with it for too long. We do spend 2% of GDP on defence in Estonia. And that was already last year. And now we're continuing to do so. Unfortunately, Estonia is rather the exception than the rule. So that... I think we have our work cut out for us in this regard. And certainly I would hope that we see a positive movement in the direction of defence spending on those Allies that have perhaps fallen behind.

OANA LUNGESCU: OK, we can take a couple of questions if they are any. Estonian TV.

Q: Yes, Johann Stralla (sp?) from Estonian TV. Mr. Rasmussen, I would like to ask how would you describe the role of Estonia in developing cyber-security in NATO?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Definitely, Estonia is playing a leading role in pushing that agenda forward. We all know that Estonia has also some... let's call it practical experience in that field; because Estonia was subject to a severe cyber-attack some years ago. We appreciate very much that Estonia is hosting the NATO cyber centre of excellence. And in today's meeting, I have discussed with the president how we can move the cyber agenda forward. We agree that cyber-security will be... is one of the emerging security challenges. And we have to take it seriously and consider how we can strengthen our cyber-defence. And in today's meeting, I have actually encouraged Estonia to present proposals as to how we could move forward as an Alliance; possibly work together with other like-minded Allies. We need that political push. And I would like to commend President Ilves for his personal engagement in the cyber-security agenda. So I attach great importance to the role of Estonia when it comes to cyber-security.

OANA LUNGESCU: National Public Radio.

Q: Teri Schultz with NPR and CBS. Mr. Secretary General, your SACEUR says it's not... says that cyber-security isn't just an emerging problem; that currently is the area where there's the largest gap between the Alliance's capabilities and the danger to it. When you have a threat to Turkey on the border of Syria, you sent Patriot missiles.

You've got Estonia on the border of Russia which by and far is the largest producer of cyber-attacks. What would be the equivalent of sending your Patriot missiles to the border, if you have any?

And President Ilves, you've been known to say, including Saturday that NATO is not up to the challenge yet of dealing with cyber-security and that... I'm interested to hear whether you think your country is adequately protected by the Alliance's defences as of now. And if you can give any ideas about how you think that more should be done right now. I'd be happy to hear them, thanks.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: For my part, I would like to make two points. The first is that when it comes to the protection of NATO information and communication systems we have a very, very well developed cyber-security system.

There is a lot of interest out there in cyber-space when it comes to NATO activities. And we experience regular attacks. But so far we have successfully protected our systems. And we will continue to develop and to strengthen our cyber-security, our cyber-defence.

Now, my second point is that personally I would very much like to develop our capacity to help NATO Allies that become subject to cyber-attacks as Estonia suffered from a cyber-attack some years ago, realizing that while bigger Allies may have a sufficient capacity to protect their own systems against cyber-attacks, we also have to realize that other small Allies maybe don't necessarily have their own capacity to resist such attacks. In that case, I think we should have a capacity to help Allies that request our assistance. That would very much be in the spirit of a line of solidarity. In that respect, we still need to further develop our capacity. That would be my ambition.

TOOMAS HENDRIK ILVES: I would say, as you posed your question, that in fact cyber is one area where it doesn't matter where you are, so...

Q: (Inaudible)

TOOMAS HENDRIK ILVES: Well, it's just that our Patriot missiles have a certain sort of range, and whereas a cyber it's rangeless. So it doesn't matter where you are.

Secondly, cyber is actually a fairly unique area in that size doesn't always matter. You can be very good and be very small. You can be very big and be very bad, I mean sort of not good at cyber. That has certainly been our experience when we look at the level of sophistication among some of our NATO Allies that in fact our smallness is not the same kind of factor as it is when it comes to say tanks or something.

But let me say this. What we've seen in the past two, three years is a tremendous galvanization of resources to actually deal with the issue of cyber-defence across the Alliance. Where we have not... where we, this is completely understandable, the first time is you want to defend your own home turf. But where we need... where I see a lot of opportunity for doing much more is actually within the NATO context.

The analogy I usually give is that we are in the area of cyber-defence; we are sort of working in a kind of intelligence paradigm where you share little. What we need to do is move on to an interoperability paradigm where you share much more. You pool resources and you can much more effectively defend yourself against cyber... cyber-attacks.

OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much. That's all we have time for... Thank you.