Baltic and Northern European Security:
"History Does Not Have Holidays"
His Excellency Andrus Öövel
Defense Minister of Estonia
Since the end of the cold War, the threat of confrontation has lessened considerably on the Continent. Now, however, we stand at a crossroads and must choose the right path to meet new challenges and secure a peaceful future. We must find a way to achieve our ideals, principles, and goals as we face the new reality.
THE PURSUIT OF FREEDOM
It has been said that "Truth makes man free." But some are convinced that it is power that provides freedom. History has shown that very often the latter has been true. But is it really in power that truth lies, and from where freedom springs? Or are there other values and virtues to lean on, such as justice and equality?
Every nation has its own history, which is often described as a pursuit of freedom. Estonia has been pursuing freedom and justice through the centuries, for the right to be a free and independent nation and to be free from the power of others. There are periods in Estonian history when we have been ruled by Swedes, Soviets, Germans, tsars, and Great Wars, as well as by Estonians. But what does this really mean for our country? And where are we now headed in our move towards the 21st century? What part will the Baltic States play in the Europe of the future?
As we look for answers to these questions, I would like to elaborate on some areas of considerable importance. First, I would like to express my views on European security and on NATO's role in it. Then I would like to turn to issues concerning enlargement, and finally to information I would like to detail regarding defense-related cooperation in the Baltic Sea area.
NATO'S ROLE IN EUROPEAN SECURITY
Post-Cold War Europe has witnessed an increase in two types of interaction: integration, including ideas, political institutions, and economic interests; and cooperation, including that of efforts, intellects, resources, and wills. We have come to understand that the world is a complex entity with a thousand and one interrelated parts, each playing an invaluable role. And from this understanding has come the idea of the indivisibility of European security. All states are needed for--and must share the responsibility for--building a stable Europe. No nation is too small or too big; all have an important role in shaping the future. And all countries must be included in this network of security organizations and in the opportunities to work together to secure a transatlantic security architecture that accommodates all interests. The new democratic states in Europe are developing their societies, pursuing economic reforms, and cooperating on security questions to achieve the security and freedom they have long desired. European security can no longer be measured by military might alone. I am convinced that the essence of security lies in the sharing of common principles and values such as democracy and human rights, as well as in improved human, social, and environmental conditions. Efforts in these directions are providing us with new tools to meet the challenges now in front of us and helping us avoid reinstating problems from the past.
One of these tools is NATO--an alliance that is moving from its roots as a purely military organization towards an organization that also promotes cooperative security. NATO has done an incredible job in adapting to the changed world situation. It has voluntarily assumed many functions beyond the collective defense of its members, and proven to be a flexible, reform-minded international security organization. NATO's recent reforms and ongoing preparations for internal and external adaptation are aimed at strengthening European security to meet the new, post-Cold War security challenges and risks, and to reinforce the transatlantic link and contribute to the development of the European Security and Defense Identity. In that work, Partnership for Peace should be recognized as a program that has contributed greatly to security and shown that many nations, even former adversaries, are willing and able to work together.
Enlargement as a Continuing Process
The momentum produced by PFP should not be allowed to die; it should be consolidated under the umbrella of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The enlargement of NATO is essential for carrying on the momentum and benefits that have already been gained. The process should be ongoing, and a commitment to that effect should be made in Madrid. But a simple statement that the door should remain open might not be enough for those who are not part of the first wave of enlargement. Secretary Albright said in Sintra that "Öwe must make a clear and credible commitment in Madrid to those nations that are not yet ready for membership. We must pledge that the first members will not be the last and that no democracy will be excluded because of where it sits on the map." Estonia, however, seeks a more concrete statement from the Alliance that continued openness is assured. To that end I believe that the idea of continuing the intensified dialogues between NATO and applicant partners is worth consideration. Our confidence in the continuing openness of NATO has been increased by the U.S. Congress's designation of new countries, including Estonia and other Baltic States, that are eligible for NATO enlargement assistance under the framework of the 1997 European Security Act. I would like to express my appreciation to the Congress for taking this step.
The Importance of EAPC and PFP
I would also like to stress the importance of the establishment of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) by NACC and the Partnership for Peace, which took place in Sintra, Portugal, on May 30, 1997. The goal of EAPC is raising political and military cooperation to a qualitatively new level, and its establishment will provide new agendas and new instruments for the transatlantic security community. EAPC could also provide a mechanism for implementation of Article 8 of the PFP Document. Using the language from Sintra, EAPC "I will unite the positive experience of NACC and PFP by providing the overarching framework for political and security-related consultations and for enhanced cooperation under PFP, whose basic elements will remain valid." Such a mission can only be praised and welcomed.
Estonia values highly the PFP program, which has been uniting European democracies for only three years but has already had enormous success in enhancing European security. We welcome the further development of PFP that was approved by the NAC in December 1996, and hope that the measures for strengthening the organization will raise cooperation between the Alliance and Partners to a much higher level.
ACHIEVING NATO MEMBERSHIP
There are four crucial PFP areas through which Estonia means to achieve its ultimate goal of joining NATO, as well as strengthening our capabilities:
- The PFP Planning and Review Process (PARP), which is parallel to the Alliance's defense-planning process, is helping us to develop our forces and to meet interoperability objectives. The exchange of information between Estonia and the Alliance, under PARP, is of extreme importance in the further development of our national defense.
- Estonia is seeking greater involvement in the planning and conducting of PFP exercises, an effort that will be realized in the exercise "Baltic Challenge," which will include the U.S., the Nordic countries, the Baltic States, and Ukraine. "Baltic Challenge" will take place in Estonia in summer 1997. We greatly appreciate our Partners' willingness to participate in an exercise that will increase the readiness of our forces for multinational operations and that will have great symbolic significance for all of the Baltic Sea region.
- Estonia also is seeking greater Partner involvement in NATO structures, and has proposed an idea to that effect. We hope an enhanced PFP will bring about greater Partner involvement in routine military-authority work at different command-structure levels. Because importance is attached to international staff officers as far as the development of the Alliance is concerned, we feel the establishment of an international Partner Staff Element should be considered. We also believe opening offices in the capitals of applicant countries would provide an additional opportunity for contact between the Alliance and NATO applicants.
- The Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) is another means for developing both political unity and new democracies' practical skills. The CJTF concept helps to create a common European Defense and Security Identity, obliging European security organizations to stand for peace and to act for that purpose. CJTF is also a successful, practical arrangement that links the armies of many countries, and will, through planning and the training of multinational forces for non-Article 5 missions, eventually contribute to strengthening regional force contingents in Europe.
I believe that an enhanced PFP and CJTF will give new substance to the regional dimension of European security. It will also enhance defense cooperation between the Baltic States and the Nordic countries, as well as encourage new initiatives and programs and more intensive activities.
COOPERATIVE PROGRAMS AMONG THE BALTIC STATES
Cooperation among the Baltic States--Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania--is highly valued by all three states and has developed very rapidly, especially during 1996-97. Very recently the Baltic Ministers of Foreign Affairs held a trilateral meeting that resulted in a declaration of common understanding of the main security-policy goals. Our primary security-policy goal is accession to EU and NATO, and we agree that one Baltic country's success in achieving this goal will also be of benefit to the other two. We believe that the accession of the Baltic States will enhance overall European security but will also compensate for the injustice we experienced due to the fateful twists of history.
The three Baltic States have also determined the priorities of their defense-related cooperation. To reach our goals we have launched three joint programs: the Baltic Peacekeeping Battalion (BALTBAT), the Baltic Naval Squadron (BALTRON), and the Baltic Air-Surveillance Network (BALTNET). At the meeting of the Ministers of Defense of the Nordic and Baltic States, which took place in Kuressaare, Estonia, in June 1997, we also established a new program--the Baltic Defense College (BALTDEFCOL). All of these projects are aimed at strengthening the Baltic States' defense forces but they are also considered steps toward reaching eligibility for NATO membership.
The implementation of these projects will also play a strong role in security enhancement, and will contribute to the transformation of our nation from a security consumer to a security producer. But the scope of these programs reaches far beyond Baltic military cooperation. They constitute a model of how different countries with a common aim can strengthen wider security by developing regional security.
The joint programs I have mentioned are actively supported by different nations around the Baltic Sea, and the U.S., the UK, and France also support the programs. I would like to thank all the nations participating in these programs, especially Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Sweden, for taking the role of leading nation in BALTBAT, BALTRON, BALTNET, and BALTDEFCOL, respectively.
These projects, however, are far from being the only joint military activities taking place in the region. Trilateral cooperation among Denmark, Germany, and Poland is also underway, through an initiative in which the three Baltic States were also invited to participate, an invitation that was well received and highly valued. There is also an extensive network of bilateral relationships between nations of the region. Two of particular note are the Finnish-Estonian effort to build up Estonian ground forces and the comprehensive annual bilateral defense-cooperation plans that Denmark implements with all three Baltic States and Poland. We also value highly the Danish and Norwegian initiatives that coordinate defense and security assistance for the Baltic States, and believe such programs will tie us more tightly together and improve the overall environment.
In addition to understanding the importance of regional cooperation, the Nordic and Baltic States recognize the importance of having a transatlantic link to the region. We therefore highly value the participation of the U.S. and Canada in Baltic States military programs, as well as U.S. participation in all major Combined Baltic Defense programs and the organization of the "Baltic Challenge '97" exercise. We are now seeking an even stronger American commitment in our region, which could be accomplished through the Baltic Action Plan.
WORKING WITH RUSSIA
In addition to all the programs and organizations I have mentioned, the goal of reaching a peaceful, undivided, and democratic Europe also depends on continued democracy-building in Russia, Europe's largest state and a great powers. Russia has been, and will continue to be, an important factor in our region, and in European security. We therefore welcome the signing of the Founding Act between NATO and Russia, and hope it will help shape a new security model aimed at promoting confidence and stability in Europe. I would like to suggest that we assist Russia in facing the problems that are part of becoming a democratic country and in accelerating its internal development. But Russia must first rely on its own efforts and on developing a positive attitude. Such efforts could form the basis for reciprocal confidence and understanding. Russia needs to convince itself that there is no hidden agenda in our dealings with them, and that the development of the Baltic States and the stability that results from their integration with NATO and EU will be in Russia's interest.
TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR A STABLE EUROPEAN ENVIRONMENT
Europe's future security system depends on our ability to include all participating states in a common system in which every state has an equal responsibility. The means I have mentioned towards ensuring a more stable continent will, I hope, accommodate the interests of the various countries.
History now offers us a chance to prove our readiness to accept the freedom that stems from cooperation and development within a democracy. We must take this chance, and continue to pursue freedom and justice. But with the privilege of freedom comes the obligation to shoulder responsibility. Only by working together and taking equal responsibility can we preserve stability in Europe.