Three weeks have passed since President Biden’s trip to Europe and analysis among think tanks and pundits continues. The Estonian American National Council (EANC) has been sorting through it to glean information most relevant to Estonia’s security and U.S.-Estonia relations, particularly regarding the outcomes of the NATO summit and Biden’s meeting with Baltic leaders on June 14th. Our general assessments of the summit and meeting are positive, though questions and concerns remain.
The most substantive report from the U.S. government on the meeting with Baltic leaders came from a White House press briefing by an unnamed senior official on June 14th. The relevant paragraphs are quoted below, along with a link to the full briefing.
Background Press Call by a Senior Administration Official On
President Biden’s Engagements at NATO Summit
JUNE 14, 2021 • PRESS BRIEFINGS
Via Teleconference 3:08 P.M. CEST
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:
On the margins of the NATO Summit, [President Biden] had the opportunity to meet with the leaders of the three Baltic countries: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. And he got the chance to discuss with them and coordinate with them in advance of his meeting with Putin on Wednesday to talk about the threat that Russia poses to NATO’s eastern flank, to talk about common commitment to Article 5 and collective defense, to coordinate on the resilience of those states in the face of multiple dimensions of the threat posed by Russia – from cyber, to provocative military exercises on their borders, to information warfare.
He was able to communicate to them what he has communicated publicly, which is that the United States seeks a stable and constructive relationship with Russia, but also will respond in the face of Russia’s harmful activities and will always stand up for NATO Allies.
They also discussed the emerging security challenge posed by China, including in the domain of technology. And he thanked the three leaders for the steps that they have taken to support a trusted 5G platform – to not accept Huawei within their systems.
They also had the opportunity to confer on Belarus and, in particular, the recent egregious air piracy that occurred with respect to a flight that was actually bound for Vilnius, Lithuania. And they had the opportunity to talk more broadly about and an affirmative agenda around emerging technologies and innovation.
It was a constructive, warm, vigorous engagement between him and the three leaders, and a real symbol of solidarity and unity with NATO’s eastern flank.
The full briefing can be found at www.whitehouse.gov under Briefing Room, then by scrolling to the entries for June 14th, 2021.
On the Estonian side, ERR News reported that “the most important take-away for Estonia [from the NATO summit] was that Biden confirmed Article Five – collective defense – is the sacred duty of the Allies.” After Biden’s meeting with Baltic leaders, Prime Minister Kallas tweeted that it was a great meeting where she expressed gratitude for Biden’s leadership in NATO and U.S. security assistance. She affirmed that “US meaningful military presence in the Baltic states is important for keeping Europe safe.” The article also reported that Biden indicated he would bring up Baltic issues with Russian president Putin during their June 16th meeting. ERR’s full article is at news.err.ee with the title Kallas: Biden will talk to Putin about Baltic issues, published on June 15th, 2021.
Given this reporting from both sides, the NATO summit and meeting with Baltic leaders affirmed the strong ties that have ensured robust U.S.-Estonia security cooperation for many years. Every indication points to continued U.S. support to Estonia and the region under the Biden Administration.
EANC has been seeking clarity on whether Biden actually did bring up Baltic topics in his meeting with Putin and more specific information on concerns over Putin’s aggression in the region. Through our membership in the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), we have requested meetings with senior Administration staff who attended the Biden-Putin meeting to get more details on the discussion regarding several ongoing security issues in the region. The CEEC and EANC have written letters to the White House expressing concern over the decision to waive key Nord Stream 2 sanctions, recent cyberattacks against U.S. targets, and Putin’s continued efforts to undermine security in Estonia, throughout Europe, and in the U.S. EANC’s letter and links to the CEEC’s letters are posted at www.estosite.org under Speak up for Estonia, then Washington Update.
While President Biden’s first trip to Europe set the stage for renewed positive transatlantic cooperation, reaffirmed U.S. commitment to its NATO allies, and showed a tough stance against the Kremlin, time will tell how the goals and intentions that were set are actually implemented through NATO’s consensus process, and how the White House responds in the event of further Kremlin aggression toward the U.S. EANC will continue to pursue clarity and track progress on the issues raised in the meetings and will keep our readers informed of relevant updates.
Featured image: Official portrait of NATO allies. Source: NATO