“I believe this is one of the most important statements made by a US president in connection to security of the Baltic states since the countries joined NATO,” Ramūnas Vilpisauškas, the director of the Vilnius University’s International Relations and Political Science Institute, told BNS on Wednesday.
In his words, Obama’s visit to Estonia signals that the US takes the increased Russian threat, aggression against Ukraine and potentially broader consequences “very seriously.”
Kęstutis Girnius, another associate professor at the institute, said the main accent of the Obama speech was on the restated NATO commitment to the Baltic states – the “unbreakable, unwavering and eternal” character of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty that guarantees collective defence.
The experts say Tallinn was in part chosen because Estonia is one of the few NATO member-states that has translated into reality the NATO recommendation to earmark 2 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) to defence.
“I think it also has to do with the fact that their [Estonia’s] military airport is used just as much as Zokniai [in Lithuania],” said Girnius, making an emphasis on Obama’s remark about intentions to perform Air Force exercises from the Amari air base in Estonia.
Vilpisauškas said revision of the 1997 NATO agreement with Russia, banning permanent stationing of substantial combat forces in NATO member-states, is “very unlikely,” however, the NATO summit will agree “on something that would be similar to the deployment of permanent NATO bases in the Baltic states.”
“In its form, it can seem and be defined differently – rotation forces or continuous NATO exercises. I believe the essence will be general enhanced presence of other NATO member-states in Poland and the Baltic states. What is the most important is the actual content of the action, it received a symbolic meaning from the words the US president said today,” said Vilpišauskas.