The secretary-general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, said in a press conference after meeting with the Estonian president, Alar Karis, that the purpose of the alliance’s military presence in Estonia and other countries is to send a clear message of deterrence.
“The purpose of [NATO’s] military presence is not to provoke the conflict, is not to pose any threat to any neighbour, but it’s just to send a clear message of deterrence. It is to prevent conflict. And we have done that successfully for more than 70 years,” Stoltenberg said.
“And there will be no armed attack against Estonia or any other NATO ally, just because together we represent 50% of the world’s military might. And our unity is our greatest strength and standing together is the best way to deter and aggression against any NATO ally, including Estonia,” he added.
“For the first time in our history, we have combat ready battlegroups not only in Estonia, but also in Lithuania, Latvia and Poland. We have air policing. We have more maritime presence. So there is more presence on the ground, at sea and in the air.”
Stoltenberg also noted that NATO had guaranteed Estonia’s security since it joined the alliance back in 2004. “That commitment is stronger than ever,” he assured.
Enlargement for the aspiring members and the alliance to decide
Russia demanded in December 2021 that NATO sign an agreement with it, guaranteeing that no NATO troops can be deployed in countries that weren’t NATO members before 1997 – including Estonia – without Russia’s explicit permission. The Russian Federation also demanded that the alliance will not deploy missiles in areas that allow them to reach the Russian territory, and that NATO will refrain from further enlargement.
Stoltenberg said in the press conference that the issue of membership in the alliance is “for the aspirant countries” and NATO itself to decide. “No one else has the right to try to veto or interfere in that process. And this is about fundamental principles for European security. It’s about the right for every nation to choose their own path,” he noted.
“And I also register and take note of the fact that, for instance, Finland and Sweden, who are actually not currently seeking a NATO membership, they have stated very clearly that even for them this is unacceptable that Russia calls all NATO to sign a legally binding agreement saying that there will be no further enlargement,” the secretary-general said. “Because this is about violating the whole idea that each and every night nation can decide their own future by themselves.”
Cover: The Estonian president, Alar Karis, and the secretary-general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, gave a joint press conference in Brussels on 13 January 2022. Picture by NATO.