Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid said on Nov. 19, after French President Emmanuel Macron branded NATO as suffering from “brain death,” that Estonia felt safe in a military alliance that has been fortifying its eastern flank as a shield against Russia.
“NATO is clearly functional,” said Kaljulaid, whose Baltic state had been, for half a century, a Soviet republic under Moscow’s thumb until 1991.
“Let’s face it—it (NATO) has a 100% success record. No NATO ally has ever been attacked. So we trust in NATO, yes,” she told Reuters on a visit to Brussels.
According to The Economist, Macron said in the interview that European countries can no longer rely on America to defend NATO allies. Macron advocates Europe’s “military sovereignty” and criticizes the United States for not coordinating its strategic decisions with other NATO allies citing as an example the uncoordinated Syria incursion by Turkey, a NATO ally. Macron also expressed his doubts about the effectiveness of Article Five that defines NATO’s principle of collective defense.
Kaljulaid met with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels on Nov. 18, and they both discussed issues that will be on the agenda of the upcoming NATO summit at the beginning of December.
Stoltenberg said at the joint press point with the Estonian President that “a strong NATO is vital for our security, for peace and prosperity in Europe.” Stoltenberg urged NATO needs to adapt alongside the changes in a modern command structure, force readiness requirements, and changes in the cyber technology including 5G.
Estonia developed a strong information technology sector after the disintegration of the Soviet Union—the Skype software was developed in Estonia—and Estonia has been referred to as the new Silicon Valley.
Stoltenberg said next month, Estonia will hold a NATO cyber defense exercise—the largest in the world—that will test NATO’s capability to defend NATO and national cyber networks.
He also thanked Estonia for spending 2 percent of its GDP on defense for many years.
Estonia’s three-party coalition was split on the topic on Tuesday. Interior Minister Mart Helme from the conservative EKRE party, the second-largest coalition partner, said Estonia was preparing Plan B to NATO.
“We are working also on Plan B, on what Estonia—and not only Estonia, but also other Baltic countries—will do if what Macron said was true,” said Helme as quoted by Finnish newspaper Iltalehti. He said Plan B is needed if NATO shows it is unable to defend the Baltic states, according to Lithuanian LTR. The EU Observer also noted that Helme said, Plan B “included forging better relations with Germany and the U.S.”
His comments met with strong opposition from the Estonian Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and other ministers, according to Estonian ERR.
Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas from the Center Party stated there is no need to question Estonia’s membership in NATO and the country will remain in NATO, according to ERR.
Defense Minister Jüri Luik said in a statement that “Estonian government has never discussed and does not plan to discuss Plan B.” Such discussions “undermine unity of NATO and weaken deterrence,” said Luik.
Reuters contributed to this report.