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Pevkur meeting with Austin: Eastern Flank of NATO needs stronger defence

16. February 2023 - 16:20

Estonian Minister of Defence Hanno Pevkur met today with U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin to discuss defence cooperation, aid to Ukraine and questions leading towards the NATO Summit in Vilnius.

“Secretary Austin began by thanking Estonia for our leadership role in aid to Ukraine. We reconfirmed the strategic relationship between Estonia and the U.S., 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,” said Minister of Defence Hanno Pevkur. 

Pevkur added that this is precisely why it is important to continue strengthening the defence of the Eastern Flank of NATO. One opportunity to do so is through establishing air defence rotations, similarly to the existing Baltic Air Policing mission.

Commenting on the war in Ukraine, the Minister of Defence said that the Russian aggression in Ukraine is the biggest threat in decades to Allied security, peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region. “Russia has in no way given up its imperialistic ambitions, also in Ukraine, and we have no other choice than to continue supporting Ukraine as much as possible and for as long as is needed,” said Pevkur. 

Both Pevkur and Austin returned from the NATO defence ministerial yesterday, where the discussion revolved around supporting Ukraine and strengthening NATO deterrence and defence posture, including new regional defence plans and the prepositioning of capabilities and equipment along the Eastern Flank of NATO.

“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,” said U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

In addition, the ministers of defence discussed plans related to the establishment of the Estonian division and U.S. support towards its structure. The armed forces of Estonia and the U.S. are closely cooperating on the establishment of this division structure within the NATO framework.

The ministers also discussed the Estonian contribution to the international military Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq. Yesterday Riigikogu, the Parliament of Estonia, approved a mandate for up to 110 servicemen from the Estonian Defence Forces to contribute to the operation. Secretary Austin also thanked Estonia for the contribution to Inherent Resolve. The discussion also included U.S. security aid and questions related to strengthening the military defence of Estonia.

Last year the Estonian Government allocated additional funds to strengthening defence on three occasions, increasing overall defence expenditure to nearly 3% of the GDP. In the coming years, Estonia will invest 140,5 mln USD received from the U.S. in defence aid into developing long-range indirect fire capabilities, which will go towards procuring multiple launch rocket systems HIMARS.

Since the end of last year, an infantry unit from the US Army has been deployed to Võru, where they train with the units of the Estonian 2nd Brigade. In addition, the U.S. have sent to Estonia a HIMARS unit on a rotational basis, with command equipment and systems. The U.S. and Estonian Defence Forces regularly hold joint exercises to increase interoperability. Following the ministers’ meeting, Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin also met with 5 members of the U.S. and 5 members of the Estonian armed forces serving in Estonia.

The deployment of additional units and capabilities from the U.S. to the Baltic States was announced by U.S. President Joe Biden last summer at the NATO Madrid Summit.

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Official photo: ARRA5615-2 copy | Kaitseväe pildigalerii (

Album of the visit: USA kaitseminister Lloyd James Austini visiit.16.02.2023 | Kaitseväe pildigalerii (