Strengthening Alliances and Prioritizing Security: Estonian Prime Minister and NATO Secretary General Discuss Upcoming Vilnius Summit

Strengthening Alliances and Prioritizing Security: Estonian Prime Minister and NATO Secretary General Discuss Upcoming Vilnius Summit
Photo: NATO

On June 28th, 2023, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas was welcomed to NATO headquarters by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg for crucial preparatory discussions ahead of the pivotal Vilnius Summit.

The conversation covered several key topics, including recent internal upheaval in Russia instigated by Wagner mercenaries. While Stoltenberg stated this was an internal Russian issue, he also emphasized that it reaffirmed the strategic error of President Putin’s illicit war in Ukraine. He stressed that the conflict had not only intensified existing fractures but also spawned fresh tensions within Russia. Despite this, the Secretary General advised against underestimating Russia, emphasizing the need to maintain strong defense measures and continue supporting Ukraine.

Stoltenberg elaborated on NATO's substantial reinforcements in the region since 2014, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, highlighting the multinational battlegroup in Estonia, led by the UK. This force can be swiftly bolstered to brigade-strength. In addition, he mentioned the deployment of fighter jets and air defense from NATO allies, ensuring the security of Estonia's airspace. The alliance has also agreed to a novel rotational model for air and missile defense, facilitating rapid transitions from air policing to air defense.

The Secretary General announced the Summit's next steps, including new regional plans, assigning forces and capabilities, and enhancing the exercise program. All these measures will be backed by over 300,000 troops on high readiness.

Ukraine's support was another pressing topic, with Stoltenberg commending Estonia for its leading role in providing critical aid and rallying international support for Ukraine. He indicated that the Summit will see allies agreeing to a multi-year aid package for Ukraine and upgrading political ties, further integrating the country into NATO.

In terms of defense investments, Stoltenberg highlighted that allies are expected to agree on an increased commitment, setting 2 percent of GDP as the minimum rather than the maximum limit. He praised Estonia for leading by example in this respect.

Furthermore, Stoltenberg stated that the Vilnius Summit would be the first to include Finland as a full member. He added that efforts are underway to finalize Sweden’s membership, with a meeting involving senior officials from Turkey, Sweden, and Finland scheduled for the following week.

Finally, the Secretary General acknowledged the significance of NATO’s KFOR mission in Kosovo, which continues to fulfill its UN mandate impartially, calling for restraint and a return to EU-mediated dialogue as the only viable way forward.