NATO is committed to ensuring the security of its member states and the efficient implementation of the collective defence principle as NATO’s main function. NATO is a military and political alliance of 31 countries. Estonia joined NATO in 2004.

NATO’s central structure and NATO’s military structure are contributing to the co-ordination and implementation of NATO member states’ activities, as NATO’s policy papers are fully issued by the member states under consensus arrangement.


How does NATO Work?

NATO relies on the capacities of its member states. As the development and maintenance of military capacities is highly expensive, the number of countries capable of developing all the required capacities independently is rather limited.

However, there is also no dire need for that. Each NATO member state can only focus on the most important and affordable capacities – considering the specifics of the county concerned – while being assured that the other countries shall ensure the availability of other capacities should the need arise.

Therefore, each member state shall only invest into certain capacities. In the case of a military conflict, the army contingent that matches the nature of a specific conflict can be deployed, using the capacities of the members of alliance. Therefore, the capacities of NATO are pooled to be deployed by NATO should the need arise.

NATO’s operation in Afghanistan, for example, consists of contributions from different allies. This means that NATO’s strategic commanders have identified NATO’s needs for the implementation of the operation in Afghanistan and the allies, in turn, have allocated some realistic capacities to match the needs and have placed them under NATO’s command. According to the principles pursued by NATO, the expenses allocated to NATO in relation to the development and use of the capacities will be born by the owner of such capacities.

The Principles of Estonia’s NATO Politics

Estonia is a full member of NATO and exercises all the obligations and rights that arise from its member status.

The Ministry of Defence shall observe the following principles when devising its NATO policies:

  • NATO must be strong as a whole. This means that the capacities available to NATO must be sufficient to ensure the deterring of any aggressor.
  • NATO’s capacity development efforts must consider the collective defence needs both within NATO territory and those of the current and possible future operations outside of NATO territory. The capacities developed must be deployable in both situations.
  • Estonia’s military contribution to NATO capacity planning must rely on the initial independent defence capacity and NATO’s collective defence requirements.
  • NATO’s capacity development must be outstanding and credible. NATO’s presence must be visible in the territory of the whole alliance.


Last updated: 5 April 2023