Allies Through Thick and Thin: NATO 70 Years On

Allies Through Thick and Thin: NATO 70 Years On

December 9, 2019

Today, as in 1949, the United States views an economically strong, defense capable, and integrated Europe as vital to Transatlantic stability and security.  Last week in London, the leaders of all NATO member states marked the 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and helped chart the way ahead.  From strengthening defense and deterrence against cyber and hybrid threats, to focusing on force readiness, to playing a key role in the fight against international terrorism, the leaders reaffirmed that the alliance is as crucial today as it was in 1949.

I’ve spent my entire nearly twenty-year career as an American diplomat working in countries outside of NATO but very much looking at the alliance with admiration. This is the first time I’ve had the privilege to serve in a NATO country, and I have to tell you – I like what I see and I am impressed.

Since becoming a member of NATO in 2004, Estonia has been an exemplary partner and ally for the United States and other members of the alliance. You have deployed with us in Iraq and Afghanistan, shouldered the burden together, and Estonian service members have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our freedoms.  Following Russia’s illegal occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea and invasion of the Donbas in 2014, Estonia volunteered to host a NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battlegroup, today consisting of allied service members from the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, and Iceland. The United States and Estonia work closely together on security issues as well. We have provided more than $100 million in combined security assistance to Estonia over the last several years, and we conduct nearly 150 military-to-military engagements per year, with over 60 of those taking place with U.S. personnel coming here to Estonia. Estonia is a model ally, and proof that NATO is alive, well, and functioning well to ensure collective prosperity and peace for the transatlantic community.

Leading up to the NATO Leaders Meeting in London last week, there was a lot of discussion about the NATO alliance.  Burden sharing, the future of the alliance, disagreements among alliance members – all of these debates are natural and healthy, and happen in an alliance of democracies.  However, even when healthy debate and negotiations occur among allies, the crucial role NATO plays for European and North American security is never in doubt.  As Secretary of State Pompeo highlighted at the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in November, “We have stood with our Allies over the last 70 years, and we will continue to stand with them against any and all threats to our transatlantic security.”

In fact, many times it is internal debates that make us and our security stronger in the end.  The discussions within NATO over burden sharing have yielded tangible results.  At the 2018 Brussels Summit, Allies agreed to submit credible plans by the end of 2018 on how they will meet the Wales Pledge to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense and 20 percent of their overall defense budget on modernization.  I commend Estonia for having already met the Wales Pledge for several years and continuing to do so.  By the end of 2020, European Allies and Canada will have added a cumulative total of more than $100 billion on defense since 2016.  No major global challenge can be tackled without the contribution of European nations, and NATO is the preeminent alliance through which to do this.  Those increased contributions directly contribute to European security, but also to global security and stability.

The vitality of our economies and the security of our societies are not mutually exclusive.  Security is the foundation for economic vitality.  The growth of our economies for the last 70 years could not have been possible without the safety NATO provided.  That security blanket gave space for entrepreneurs and free markets to increase our standard of living and provide meaningful employment for our citizens.

The transatlantic community is bound together by our shared democratic values, as well as our mutual goals of prosperity, stability, and security.  These values are important for both the United States and Estonia.  Last week in London, we saw the 29 members of the alliance recommit themselves to these shared aspirations.  I am proud to be here in Estonia and have the great honor to work with America’s allies every day as we strive, together, to ensure that all members of the alliance benefit from our collective prosperity, stability, and security.