How the U.S. Supports Estonia
10 Things You Might Not Know About U.S.-Estonia Partnership
By: George P. Kent, U.S. Ambassador to Estonia
Published in Õhtuleht on July 4, 2023
Today is the United States’ 247th Independence Day. People across the U.S. are celebrating with food, family, and fireworks. It is a day to celebrate, but also a day to remember the values that shaped the founding of our country in 1776 – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – and how we still strive to protect those values in today’s world.
We talk about this often in Estonia because our two countries understand that we must work together to protect the values of liberty, democracy, and freedom, especially as we support Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression.
You may know that these values are the foundation of the U.S.-Estonia relationship, but here are ten things you may not know about our partnership:
- We have a great team. Over 100 employees work in our Embassy, and more than half of them are Estonians. Our team is experienced and extremely knowledgeable about the issues that matter most to Estonia. 44% of our Estonian colleagues have worked at the Embassy for more than 10 years, and we have more than 10 team members with 30 or more years of experience! Add in the wide range of American experts from our Department of State, Department of Defense, Treasury Department, FBI, Secret Service, and more, and we are ready to collaborate in any field.
- Our defense cooperation grows each year. Right now, there are more than 750 U.S. troops deployed to Estonia – the largest number in the history of our relationship. Since 2016, the U.S. has given over $500 million in security assistance to Estonia, culminating in the agreement for Estonia to acquire six Lockheed Martin High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) by 2025, the largest and most significant defense acquisition in Estonia’s history. Add in naval exercises like the recent BALTOPS 23, cyber cooperation, and plenty of training missions with U.S. aircraft, and there is no doubt that our defense partnership will continue to grow.
- Travel is back. Last year, around 20,000 Estonians traveled to the United States, and about 34,000 Americans spent at least one night in Estonia. Behind these numbers are stories of exploration, making new friendships or reviving old ones, contributing to our economies, and bolstering people-to-people ties. Following the global pandemic, the U.S. and Estonia are making more connections than ever before.
- We’re stopping bad guys together. In 2018, a joint investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Estonian PBGB led to five arrests and the largest seizure of fentanyl in Estonian history. Today, U.S.-Estonia law enforcement cooperation is growing even stronger as we continue to partner on investigations to combat the distribution of synthetic opioids, uncover cryptocurrency schemes, prosecute money launderers, and tighten the enforcement of global sanctions against Russia.
- Support for Ukraine is a top priority. Like Estonia, we are fully committed to providing Ukraine the assistance it needs to achieve victory in the face of Russian aggression and lay the foundation for a successful recovery. Since February 2022, the U.S. has provided more than $40.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, more than $2.1 billion in humanitarian assistance, and more than $19.3 billion in direct budget support to help the Government of Ukraine fund basic public services. We commend Estonia and the Estonian people for your contributions to Ukraine, and pledge to stand united with Ukraine for as long as it takes to achieve victory and a just and lasting peace.
- Collaboration on climate research matters. For more than 25 years, the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program in Estonia has been helping NASA analyze the environment while also making science cool. More than 90 Estonian schools participate in the U.S.-government led GLOBE program, which teaches students how to use scientific measurements to understand the climate. Those measurements are provided to NASA researchers who recognize Estonian GLOBE as one of the top programs in the world.
- Business is booming. Estonian businesses are expanding to the United States at a historic rate. In 2004, when Estonia joined the EU, there were almost no Estonian businesses operating in the United States. Today, Estonian businesses export more than €1 billion of Estonian origin goods to the United States each year and have invested more than €450 million to expand their businesses in the United States. Thousands of Estonians also work for U.S.-owned businesses in Estonia.
- Our educational exchanges support future leaders. This year, 21 Estonian high school students will participate in the Future Leaders Exchange Program, studying in the United States for the 2023/24 school year, bringing the total to more than 110 students since the program’s start in 2016. Over nine school years, we have also had 29 American Fulbright English Teaching Assistants teaching in local schools across Estonia. Exchanges like these help deepen knowledge and understanding of our two countries; they also strengthen relationships and provide skills and experiences that build the leaders of tomorrow.
- We love to highlight our shared culture. Over the past year, Embassy staff have traveled to every region of Estonia to highlight our shared culture and values. We’ve held concerts in Kuressaare, Viljandi, Paide, Rapla, Tallinn, Maardu, Rakvere, Sillamäe, Narva, and more. We’ve also held film screenings in Kärdla, Haapsalu, Lihula, and Tartu, amongst others. Our longest-running art exhibit “Picturing America” has been displayed in 64 communities across Estonia since 2011 – check it out at Viru-Nigula Raamatukogu through September. Cultural outreach helps promote mutual understanding and sparks dialogue about our shared values and challenges.
- And we want to learn about Estonia, too. From your love of nature to your passion for music, we love experiencing Estonian culture. In my first six months here, I have cross-country skied through Pirita, hiked the Jussi nature trail, and canoed the fifth season in Soomaa. I have joined the Kalamaja Segakoor, tended two Estonian beehives in my backyard, and traveled to many amazing cities, from Narva to Tartu and Pärnu to Paide. I am so thankful for the warm welcome my family and I have received, just as I know my Embassy colleagues have come to love this beautiful and vibrant country.
Today, as we celebrate our freedom and independence with friends and colleagues across Estonia, I also celebrate the partnership that we share. The U.S.-Estonia relationship is stronger than ever because of the people and organizations that have supported our shared values over so many years.
On behalf of the American people – thank you, and happy Fourth of July!