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European security from an Estonian point of view

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Hannes Hanso, President of the National Defence Committee of the Parliament of Estonia held a lecture on the security situation in Central and Eastern Europe at the Ludovika Campus on the 9th of December, 2016. In his visit to the University, the former Estonian Minister of Defence was among others also accompanied by Rein Oidekivi, Estonian ambassador to Austria.

The lecture of Mr. Hanso was introduced by Prof. Dr. Zoltán Szenes (ret.) general and university professor at the Faculty of International and European Studies, who briefly described the academic achievements of the guest as well as his work in the field of public service. Hannes Hanso, who had studied both in China and in the United Kingdom, has considerable public service experience, including previously serving as President of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Estonia and as Estonian Minister of Defence.

In his lecture, Mr. Hanso reminded the audience that the main pillars of Estonian security are NATO and the EU. He stressed, that although there are currently six political parties in his country (3 are part of the government, and 3 in opposition) there are no differences between them in the question of defence policy. As far as the international aspect of his lecture was concerned, he highlighted that recently there have been events that nobody had expected before (such as the British exit from the European Union) or events that could have great consequences on NATO on their own (for example, events in Turkey, or the 2016 American presidential election). Furthermore, he also underlined how much the European Union’s view of the international security environment has changed since the publication of its security strategy in 2003.

His speech focused on the Russian threat in the Baltics and NATO’s response to it. Regarding the former, he pointed to the fact that the Russian leadership has miscalculated itself with its conduct, has alienated its neighbours and turned Ukraine towards the West. He also added that the Ukrainian crisis triggered effects which were unimaginable a few years ago, such as the United States strengthening its military presence in Europe or that there is a public debate in Sweden about joining NATO.

In relation to NATO strengthening its eastern members, he highlighted that it took only 11 months to deploy allied Western European soldiers to Estonia following the decision to do so, which is a strong message towards Moscow and shows the relevance of NATO. He also added that member states should not rely solely on mutual defence based on Article 5 of the Treaty  but should also consider Article 3. Thus they should be prepared to defend themselves as well. He reminded that national defence has costs and that in Estonia, there is an honest discourse about this between politicians and the public.

Finally, Mr. Hanso thanked Hungary – together with the other Visegrad states – for sending soldiers to the Baltics.