The US Congress adopted a USD2.3 trillion defence appropriations bill, which foresees USD168.7 million of security assistance to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 2021; for the first time, the security assistance is allocated through the newly created Baltic Security Initiative that highlighted the security concerns of the Baltic region in the US lawmaking.
“The decision by the US Congress demonstrates that our strongest ally is committed to the defence of our region and understands the security challenges here. We highly value this decision and are ready to continue strengthening our defence cooperation with the US,” the Estonian defence minister, Jüri Luik, said in a statement.
“The decision by the US Congress confirms that the United States sees Estonia and the Baltic states as trustworthy allies who take their commitment to defence seriously by continuously investing into their own national defence capabilities and by contributing to operations overseas with allies,” Luik added.
The United States has provided security assistance to the Baltic countries before, yet the decision by the US Congress to approve the initiative proposed in the spring of 2020 by the Baltic countries will greatly strengthen cooperation in developing new capabilities together, the Estonian defence ministry said in a statement.
“The US Congress’ decision directs the US Secretary of Defense together with the Secretary of State to submit a multi-year strategy and spending plan to outline the goals, objectives and milestones for the initiative, including in air defence, maritime situational awareness, ammunition, Special Forces, C4ISR and the benefits of such programs for deterrence,” the defence ministry asserted.
A long-term commitment to support the Baltics
The newly adopted Baltic Security Initiative demonstrates the United States’ long-term commitment to support the Baltic countries in developing their national defence capabilities, according to the Estonian defence ministry.
“Earlier US security assistance has enabled Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to meet many of their military infrastructure and capability development goals ahead of schedule.”
In addition to the US security assistance, this year there has seen a significantly larger presence of US forces in the Baltic region. In 2020, multiple joint exercises between with the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Cyber Commands have strengthened the defence cooperation between the US and Estonia even further, the Estonian defence ministry noted.
The US president, Donald Trump, on 23 December vetoed the National Defense Authorisation Act, which the Congress had adopted with a veto-proof majority and the veto will likely be overridden. However, as the Estonian defence ministry told Estonian World on 24 December, the defence appropriations bill that includes the Baltic Security Initiative is a separate act the Congress adopted and the president’s veto will not affect appropriating the defence funds to the Baltic states.
Cover: Soldiers of the Estonian Defence Forces testing a US-made Javelin missile. The image is illustrative. Photo by the Estonian Defence Forces.