During her visit to Ämari Air Base, the Defence Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany, Ursula von der Leyen affirmed to Estonian Minister of Defence Margus Tsahkna that German Air Force is prepared to return to Ämari in the framework of the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission in near future.
“Estonia has been a fantastic host, our airmen enjoy their service here and the cooperation with the Estonian Air Force is very good“ said Minister von der Leyen. “We have created a good foundation for our defence cooperation and we will definitely come back here again“.
Minister of Defence Margus Tsahkna thanked Minister von der Leyen for the strong Allied support. “The fact that German fighters will continue to defend our airspace sends a strong message about our cooperation and I am very grateful for that” said Minister Tsahkna. “Thank you for having taken a leading role in assuring security in the Baltic region”.
Estonian Minister of Defence Margus Tsahkna stressed that in order to increase security in Europe, the EU countries will have to increase their defence spending. “European security and military capabilities must be increased. This is not just a goal in itself. These past years have shown that whilst its aggressive behaviour continues, Russia is also developing and modernizing its military capabilities. Here on the EU and NATO’s eastern border we have a very good understanding of it, based also on the historic experiences” said Minister Tsahkna.
Minister Tsahkna expressed Estonia’s full support to German initiative for EU countries to move towards the goal of 2% of GDP spent on defence, 20% of which would be spent on investments. “This year, during Estonia’s EU presidency, we will continue to promote this initiative” declared Minister Tsahkna. “The goal, after all, is that we could protect our values, whilst being united and smart. The question is not just about money, but also about having actual capabilities. Most importantly, we need defence cooperation on the European level” underlined the Estonian Minister of Defence.
During their bilateral meeting, the two Ministers discussed ways on how to increase defence cooperation between NATO and the EU and how to boost European defence capabilities. In addition, both Ministers stressed the importance of deepening cyber security cooperation.
The bilateral defence cooperation between Estonia and Germany has been very close for years. Estonian Defence Forces are using a lot of equipment of German origin, e.g. German FH-70 howitzers. Many Estonian soldiers, including the Chief of Defence Forces, General Riho Terras, have received their military education and training in Germany. Furthermore, Germany has contributed greatly to the development of both the Baltic Defence College and NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence.
The German Armed Forces presence in the Baltic region has been very active in the past few years. Large German troop contingents have regularly been participating in SPRING STORM - the largest military exercise of the Estonian Defence Forces. Currently, the fourth rotation of German airmen are guarding the Baltic airspace from Ämari Air Base. Estonian and German soldiers currently serve side-by-side in international missions in Mali and Afghanistan. Germany is a framework nation for the NATO enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup stationed in Lithuania.