Yesterday, on 26th of April, Minister of Defence Kalle Laanet, who was on a two-day working visit to Helsinki, met with Finnish Minister of Defence Antti Kaikkonen, with whom the regional security situation and defence co-operation, in both bilateral and multilateral formats, was discussed.
“We began the meeting with Minister of Defence Kaikkonen by discussing the complicated situation in both Ukraine and Belarus,” said Laanet, adding that our countries should jointly disapprove of the continued display of power by Russian forces near Ukraine and express solidarity with Ukraine.
Laanet greatly appreciates the co-operation between Finland and Estonia at the international level. “Finland is an excellent regional partner, as well as good partner within the European Union – I also called on Finland to expand our cooperation within the framework of the European Defence Fund and European Peace Facility initiatives. In addition, we are actively cooperating within the framework of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force and the Northern Group, which unites 12 Northern European countries, with Estonia and Finland holding the presidency in 2021. Finland has an important role to play in the security of our region, which is why we also support Finland’s close partnership with NATO," described Laanet.
Defence-related cooperation between Estonia and Finland has grown closer in recent years, especially in the areas of joint procurement and capability development. The ministers agreed that regional co-operation will continue to remain very useful in the future in regards to enhancing the capabilities of national defence forces. In the past, for example, both radar systems and K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers have been procured together.
Although Estonia and Finland have a long history and broad scope of defence-related co-operation, according to Laanet, there is definitely room for development. Although the pandemic has made it more difficult to conduct military exercises, as the situation returns to normal, the participation of the Defence Forces in each other’s exercises and the development of interoperability should continue. “We must also place an emphasis on maintaining and raising situational awareness,” Laanet added. Estonia’s Minister of Defence emphasized that the Baltic Sea States must closely monitor Russia’s strategic training exercise Zapad 2021, which is set to begin in the immediate vicinity of the region in the second half of the year.
The ministers also discussed the countries’ involvement in operations, including the imminent return of Estonian and Finnish servicemen from the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.
During the visit, Minister Laanet laid wreaths at Hietaniemi Cemetery. Laanet also met with the Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces, General Timo Kivinen, and visited the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats.
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