#BalticTalks. The Baltic States: 18 years in NATO

On the 29th of March, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia celebrated 18 years of membership in NATO. On the day of celebration, the discussion was organized in order to highlight the lessons which Baltic States have learned and how the current security crisis might affect the Baltic region and the entire Alliance.

The discussion started on a commemoration for 18 years since the Baltic states joined NATO, how throughout these years our military forces and societies have changed, and how the NATO membership has contributed greatly to this consequence. During these 18 years the Baltic states have faced numerous security challenges and were monitoring how the Russian regime was causing the world’s unrest regarding the security. As a consequence, the World is now facing the largest security crisis in Europe against democracy since the Cold War.

Jüri Luik, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Estonia to NATO, started about the great advantage of being in NATO: “We are around the table. When the doors are closed, we are inside the room with all the big players of Western democracy.” The Ambassador added that “for several years up till the Russian occupation of Crimea, people were extremely skeptical about our arguments that Russia has not changed and there is an open imperialism.” As well he added that one of the key aspects are to strengthen the Eastern flank of Alliance and it should not be tempting by its weakness but, on the contrary, repelling all who want to be “adventurous” militarily and to give a strong signal that NATO territory should never be touched.

After the occupation of Crimea, the NATO allies decided to reinforce the Baltic countries and troops to the Baltics after only seeing the worst examples of how democracy can be easily deprived. The discussion continued by questioning why Western countries need examples such as warfare, occupation to strengthen our countries, although since the Baltics joined NATO, our countries have been talking about Russia’s aggression and possible consequences. “It is extremely important that our Western colleagues have now accepted that it is not enough just to draw a line in a sentence (..), but have shown with concentrated force that we are serious about it. The fact is that our allies have done a lot and we have to appreciate that.”, – the Ambassador Jüri Luik added.

Edgars Skuja, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Latvia to NATO, during the discussion about the current situation and deploying more NATO forces into the Baltic states, said: “Here in NATO and in the overall assessment, everything starts with the threat assessment. This is the first point of departure. 2014 made a difference, indeed. Since then, we have had an example of a great unity in Alliance. We went through different periods and this overall assessment after 2014, is absolutely right that we have to deploy additional forces to the Baltic states. In the last few months, we see that we have eight battled groups along the whole Eastern flank, which only means that we have much bigger reinforcement on the land, in the sea and earth.”

Deividas Matulionis, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Lithuania to NATO, while discussing about the insights how the Western states see the Baltic states, said: “They understand the problems and that we are members of the Alliance and strengthening the Eastern flank is the necessity and we need to reshape the collective defence in the light of ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. We see readiness to do more and to consolidate our position.”

People and ordinary people ask what might be done for better security and defense. In addition to this, the Ambassador Edgars Skuja said: “The support to Ukraine is something that we have really observed throughout Europe and it is absolutely necessary. Our people are part of the war of information and those missiles of information are targeted to us, to our people and we have to not only survive in this information war, but we have to be in it. This is what we call resilience, the position of people to survive it.”

The Ambassador Jüri Luik added that we need to avoid the panic and we need to stay constructive, firmed, rational and bring our own societies thought this crisis with healthy spirit and understanding because a lot of work needs to be done and the work has just started in terms of strengthening our own defense forces and resilience.

In terms of Russian information warfare, the Ambassador Deividas Matulionis added that it is not only about mass media, but about our education, too. We need to pay more attention to patriotic education and to have youngsters be ready to defend and love their homeland, as well as to keep our strong moral ground – to be united, strong and not panic and overwhelm our society.

“We should have a very clear strategy in underlying the importance of continuous support to Ukraine, strengthening the NATO Eastern flank, the EU’s resilience and continuously isolating Russia as long as Russia does not give up its policies and aggressive imperialist policy because if we will be satisfied with whatever result will come with this war at the end, it will repeat itself very soon. We have to stop this circle of violence.” – The Ambassador Jüri Luik added.

#BalticTalks is a joint project of Lithuanian Atlantic Treaty Association (LATA), Latvian Transatlantic Organization (LATO) and Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association (EATA). Project focuses on the security issues in the Baltic region.

 

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