By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, June 24, 2015 – Defense Secretary Ash Carter expressed the United States’ gratitude to Estonia for its contributions to NATO during his visit to the Baltic nation’s capital on its Victory Day yesterday.
During a press conference hosted by Estonian Minister of Defense Sven Mikser in Tallinn, Estonia, Carter was joined by Lithuanian Minister of Defense Juozas Oleskas and Latvian State Secretary of Defense Janis Sarts, as he thanked Estonia for its alliance contributions.
Carter said that Estonia met the alliance’s 2 percent defense spending goal established last summer. Estonia also hosts the Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence and it hosts the first NATO Force Integration Unit, Carter said.
The defense secretary added that it was a “privilege” to be in Estonia on Victory Day, which commemorates the Battle of Vonnu in 1919 and honors the service and sacrifice of generations of Estonians in the cause of freedom.
Attack on One is Attack on All
The defense secretary recalled a September visit by President Barack Obama where the president addressed the people of Estonia and NATO’s commitment to its members.
“‘You lost your independence once before. With NATO, you will never lose it again,’” Carter said, quoting Obama.
“That’s because the United States and the rest of the NATO alliance are absolutely committed to defending the territorial integrity of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, just as we are committed to defending all NATO allies,” the defense secretary said.
The meaning of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty is unambiguous, Carter said.
“An attack on one [NATO member] is an attack on all,” he said.
Carter said the defense ministers had just completed an informative session at which they discussed “Russia’s recent attempts to turn back the clock in Europe, especially here in the Baltic region.”
Carter added, “We each agreed that, while we do not seek a cold, let alone hot war with Russia. We will defend our allies, the rule-based international order, and the positive future it affords us all.”
To accomplish this, Carter said, the alliance made clear its commitment to NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force.
“We’ll rely in NATO, in this new era, on a new playbook,” he said. “With that new playbook, we’ll be smart about our posture and presence so that we’re more agile, mobile and responsive.”
For example, Carter said, American rotational forces need to move more quickly and easily to participate in training and exercises throughout Europe.
New U.S.-NATO Initiatives
In order to establish agility, mobility and responsiveness, Carter said, the vehicles and associated equipment necessary to support one armored brigade combat team will be temporarily staged in countries in central and eastern Europe.
“This prepositioned European activity set includes tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and artillery,” he said.
Carter noted Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland all agreed to host battalion-sized elements of equipment, which will be moved around the region for training and exercises.
“We must also prepare NATO and our allies for cyber challenges, particularly from Russia,” he said. “That’s why today, I visited NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence and I’m pleased to announce a new American initiative to bolster the center’s role in leading our partners towards improved cyber defense.”
The defense secretary said the Defense Department will work with the center of excellence to help nations in three main areas -- development of cyber defense strategies, critical infrastructure protection planning, and cyber defense posture assessments.
The commitment to the VJTF, the European activity set, cyber cooperation and working together in hybrid warfare are just a few of the ways NATO is working together, the defense secretary said.
“We are working in a new way,” Carter said, “according to a new playbook, to deter Russia, reassure our allies, ensure interoperability and move forward in time -- not backward in time -- together as an alliance.”
He added, “We’ll continue to look for others this week, and in the months and years ahead because of the commitments we’ve made to Estonia, to Lithuania, to Latvia and the positive future we all want to achieve for this continent.”