December 15, 2017

Taking Stock of Estonian Foreign and Security Policy in 2017

On Friday, December 15th, ICDS hosted a public discussion with Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sven Mikser, and Minister of Defence, Mr. Jüri Luik, entitled “Taking Stock of Estonian Foreign and Security Policy in 2017.” ICDS Director, Sven Sakkov offered introductory remarks and the event was moderated by ICDS Research Fellow, Eerik Marmei.

Minister Mikser began the discussion by touching upon many of the main foreign policy topics of 2017, including the Estonian EU presidency, the upcoming NATO Brussels’ Summit, as well as significant deliverables in EU security and defence policy such as the Permanent Structure for Security Cooperation, PESCO. On NATO, Minister Mikser stated that the development of a deterrent along NATO’s eastern flank has been successful – and most importantly sends clear signals of political unity within the alliance, however, important work remains to be done, including in the maritime and air domains.

In his opening remarks, Minister Luik highlighted how public perception and interest in Zapad may have affected the way the exercise was carried out, suggesting that western public awareness lead increased transparency in how Russia conducted the ‘exercise.’ Additionally, Luik lauded the media and western foreign policy’s community in their coverage and analysis of the exercise.

In addressing public opinion regarding threats, Minister Luik stated that the Estonian public views terrorism at the greatest current danger – that is not to say the Estonians discount the threat of Russian aggression. Luik stressed that measures taken to build a deterrent along NATO’s eastern flank have had a confidence-building effect in Estonia since the deployment of Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) units this year. Turning to the upcoming NATO summit, both ministers agreed that outstanding challenges are largely centered on addressing the issue of reinforcements and follow-on forces.

Speaking on the future of PESCO, Minister Luik stressed that there are some remaining challenges – but the project demonstrates a logical structure for what is possible in the EU. Particularly in implementing projects. Additionally, that it will become necessary in the near future to clearly define the European Union’s institutional military function.

The Question and Answer section featured numerous topics ranging from regional defence cooperation to the Syrian Civil War.