Thanks to the contribution of the NATO allies the security of the Baltic Sea region is currently stable, but air defense is a critical capability gap, Estonian Defense Minister Juri Luik said at the influential CEPA 2017 conference in Washington.
“Together with our allies, we are currently able to create a deterrence capability that would deter any potential opponent,” Luik said in his speech. “At the same time, it is incorrect to claim that everything has already been done to protect NATO’s eastern wing. We must continue to look at what else needs to be done to protect ourselves along with our allies,” he added.
Luik stressed that the topic of allied presence must continue since all is far from being done. “A critical capability gap is air defense, including the development of mid- and long-range air defense solutions,” he said.
He also emphasized that important support pillars in NATO’s deterrence capability are allied expenditures of at least 2 percent of GDP on national defense and the continuing contribution by the United States to the security of Europe.
“The 2 percent rate must be the threshold for minimum effort by all allies. Meeting this rate sends a positive message regarding the strength of the NATO alliance and at the same time ensures the development of allied military forces,” Luik said.
According to Luik nothing can replace the role of the United States in maintaining deterrence capability in Europe, since the United States is capable of offering forces, as well as logistical and material support.
“The United States continue to send signals at the political and practical level that they remain dedicated to the defense of Europe. A strong message was sent with the Senate’s approval of the new defense budget, in which Europe’s deterrence initiative EDI is provided with substantial additional funding,” Luik said.
Luik participated in the panel discussion “Reforming NATO for the 21st Century” together with the Minister of Defense for Poland, the Deputy Minister of Defense for the Czech Republic, the State Secretary of the Latvian Ministry of Defense, and Commander, U.S. Army Europe, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges.
The CEPA Forum is the largest annual conference dedicated to topics involving Central Europe.