At the 62nd Annual Session of NATO Parliamentary Assembly, which was held on 18–21 November in Istanbul, the discussions focused on preventing terrorism, the situation in Middle East, enhancing the defence capabilities of NATO, meeting of defence spending benchmarks, and Transatlantic relations during the term of office of the new President of the United States. In connection with the growing threats from Russia, increasing the military footprint in the Baltic States and Poland was also spoken about.
Chairman of the Estonian delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, member of the Defence and Security Committee Ants Laaneots considered it necessary that NATO was unified and, regardless of the cultural and geopolitical differences of member states, everybody contributed equally to ensuring of security.
“Before Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the defence spending of the member states decreased, but in 2014, the decreasing stopped, and by today, a small growth can be seen already,” Laaneots said in his speech. He pointed out that besides Estonia, who will spend 2.18 percent of GDP on defence next year, four other NATO member states – Greece, the United Kingdom, the United States and Poland – meet the 2 percent target.
In his speech, Laaneots referred to the promise of US President-Elect Donald Trump to increase the defence spending of the USA, with an emphasis on the navy, and to support NATO, but to show a critical attitude towards the partners who do not meet the two percent target.
Laaneots also wished that NATO military contingent in the Baltic States would increase even more. He was referring to the fact that due to their smallness, the Baltic States are not able to create by themselves an effective air defence system or a navy that would ensure safe maritime and air communication in a crisis situation.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in his address in Istanbul today that NATO would increase collective defence in East Europe – in the Baltic States and Poland. According to him, before Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine, NATO had no plans to send troops to the eastern part of the Alliance, but now the situation has greatly changed. Stoltenberg said that NATO increased its forces not in order to provoke a conflict, but to prevent a conflict. In his opinion, the best possibility for that is credible deterrence.
In reply to the speech by Laaneots, Stoltenberg said that he understood the concerns of the Baltic States, and assured that in the event of possible crisis, units belonging to the NATO Response Force would be sent to help the Baltic States and Poland.
The participants of the Annual Session acknowledged the host country Turkey for its contribution to managing the migration crisis. They expressed their solidarity with Turkey, who is the second largest member state of NATO. At the same time, the activities of Turkey after the attempted coup were criticised in speeches.
NATO Parliamentary Assembly elected member of the Italian delegation Paolo Alli as its new President.
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