Taavi Toom: It’s a good idea to host NATO summit in Estonia

Estonian diplomats have discussed since 2015 the idea to host a high-profile NATO summit that includes the premiers in Tallinn; the idea was again reiterated by the current prime minister, Jüri Ratas, and Taavi Toom, a former Estonian diplomat, highlights why Estonia would be the ideal place for the summit.

The Estonian prime minister, Jüri Ratas, announced on 25 January that Estonia is ready to host the NATO summit in Tallinn later this year on the 70th anniversary of the alliance. I like this ambitious idea that corresponds very well with Estonia 200 (a new political party, aiming to enter the parliament, Riigikogu, after the 3 March 2019 election – editor) vision of Estonia as a meeting place of people and ideas – and international conferences.

It has been discussed already for quite a while in diplomatic corridors that NATO jubilee-summit under US president Donald Trump could only take place in a country that spends at least 2% of its GDP on defence. Estonia meets that requirement; most of the allies unfortunately don’t (the NATO members that currently spend at least 2% are the US, the UK, Poland, Greece, Turkey and Estonia – editor).

Considering that the NATO summit in 2014 took place in Wales and 2016 in Warsaw, there are not so many countries left where the summit of 2019 could take place after the foreign ministers meeting in April in Washington, DC. Turkey has also expressed a wish to host the next summit but has failed to get support of all allies due to some domestic issues. For the UK, a NATO summit in Tallinn would be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate unconditional support for European security after Brexit.

The possible agenda

Although it is too early to speak about the possible agenda and the results of the summit, the meeting in Tallinn could highlight four topics.

First, 2% of defence spending – or “fair burden sharing”, in NATO speak. Secondly, a greater attention on security issues and possible solutions in the Baltic Sea region. Third, the modernisation of NATO and last, but not least, cooperation with the EU. Estonia as a forward-leaning member of NATO and the EU is an ideal and symbolic place for the summit.

I very much hope that all the necessary diplomatic ground was prepared before the prime minister’s announcement so that decision on the Tallinn summit could be announced soon. Usually, the allies first discuss such matters among themselves and then announce decisions. This time it looks that the cart was put before the horse hastily before the general election in Estonia on 3 March.

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Cover: The heads of state and government gathering at the working dinner of NATO Summit 2018 in Brussels (NATO). The opinions in this article are those of the author.

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About the author: Taavi Toom

Taavi Toom is a former Estonian ambassador to Poland and Denmark. He has also served as a director of security policy, public diplomacy and European affairs at the Estonian ministry of foreign affairs. Currently, he’s the spokesperson of Estonia 200 on foreign and European affairs.