US defence secretary visits Estonia, reaffirms strong partnership

The defence secretary of the United States, Lloyd Austin visited Estonia on 16 February and reaffirmed the strong security partnership between the two countries and emphasised a shared resolve in the face of Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine.

“The United States remains steadfastly committed to the freedom and sovereignty of our Baltic allies, and we stand united with you to deter and defend against any threat to our shared security,” Austin said during his remarks at the Estonian defence ministry. He also thanked Estonia for its strong support for Ukraine, calling Estonia’s leadership “a shining example to all countries”, according to the US embassy.

According to the Estonian defence minister, Hanno Pevkur, he and Austin “reconfirmed the strategic relationship between Estonia and the US, which today is expressed in the infantry and HIMARS units serving today side by side with our Defence Forces, strengthening the security of both Estonia and the whole of NATO.”

“At the same time, the past year has confirmed that the Russian ambitions towards the West have not changed and our eastern neighbour continues to be the biggest threat to us collectively,” Pevkur added.

The US defence secretary Lloyd Austin in Tallinn on 16 February. Photo by Martin Vesberg.

Kallas: it’s existentially important for Ukraine to win

The Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas, thanked Austin for his contribution and that of the US in supporting Ukraine and strengthening NATO.

“Our bilateral defence cooperation and their presence here are of key importance in ensuring the security of Estonia and the Alliance, deterring Russia, and resisting the threats emanating from there,” Kallas said.

“It is existentially important for the democratic and rules-based world order that Ukraine wins this war. How Ukraine wins and Russia loses will affect the security of Europe as a whole for a long time to come. In order to ensure the victory of Ukraine, the military aid of the allies must be continued and increased, and the opportunities of Russia to finance its war of conquest must be limited,” she added.

The US defence secretary Lloyd Austin meeting the Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas in Tallinn on 16 February. Photo by Martin Vesberg.

During his visit to Tallinn, Austin also met with US military servicemembers currently deployed to Estonia and servicemembers from the Estonian Defence Forces to emphasise the importance of their work contributing to allied readiness and combat effectiveness and advancing the US-Estonia defence partnership.

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