Perhaps the Estonian authorities had noticed the security breach with the Chancellor late Thursday evening at Frankfurt Airport, when a man with his private car joined the motorcade and Olaf Scholz first shook hands on the apron and then even hugged him. When the German head of government lands in Tallinn on Friday, two military helicopters are already hovering in the air, accompanying the convoy to the Stenbockhaus, the seat of government, where Prime Minister Kaja Kallas will receive him.
A few months ago there were still great doubts in the Baltic States as to whether Germany was a reliable ally. In Berlin it was a question of whether the Federal Republic of Ukraine would also supply battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles to defend itself against the attack by the Russian army. The Chancellor’s hesitation caused severe irritation in the traditionally close and good relations with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
For these NATO partners, the war in Ukraine is an existential question. Not only since February 24 of last year have they feared that the imperialist ambitions of Russian President Vladimir Putin would not end in Ukraine. Germany has now become Ukraine’s most important supporter after the United States. One is glad, says Kallas, that the three Baltic countries have the opportunity to talk to the head of government of Germany, this important ally, before the NATO summit in mid-July in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius.
The three Baltic states are demanding that Germany should take on a “leading role”.
Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš and his Lithuanian colleague Ingrida Šimonytė join them a little later in the Chancellor’s office; the hostess and the chancellor await you there after your short walk through the cobbled streets of Tallinn’s Old Town. However, expectations of Germany remain high, with a view to supporting Ukraine and defending the eastern flank of the transatlantic alliance. For security and peace in Europe it is necessary for Germany to assume “a leading role” in NATO and in the EU, which must put itself in a position to defend itself militarily.
All three Baltic heads of government have made it clear that they would like Germany to support Ukraine’s clear prospect of joining NATO, for example a formal invitation to the Vilnius summit. It would be very sad if the Kremlin could sell the results of the leaders’ meeting as a success in its efforts to keep Ukraine out of the alliance, Lithuanian Prime Minister Šimonytė said. That’s why it’s important to find the right words in Vilnius.
Although the German government supports the prospect of membership that was formulated in Bucharest in 2008 and has no fixed date, it also points out that Ukraine cannot join the alliance as long as it is at war with Russia and the question of its borders has not been finally clarified.
Šimonytė thanked Germany for its commitment in the region. The Bundeswehr leads a multinational NATO combat unit in Lithuania with a total strength of around 1,700 soldiers, including around 1,000 members of the Bundeswehr. Great Britain and Canada are responsible for the units in Estonia and Latvia. With this advanced presence, Allianz responded to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2017.
Vilnius would like to see the German brigade permanently stationed in the country
Scholz also promised Lithuania in the summer of 2022 to provide an entire defense brigade. The Bundeswehr has permanently stationed parts of the command post at the Rukla site; it is the link to the Lithuanian Armed Forces. However, the government in Vilnius would like to see Germany station the entire brigade with around 3,500 to 4,000 soldiers permanently in the country and not have them ready in Germany for a quick transfer as planned by the federal government.
In order to effectively deter Putin, “boots are on the ground,” said Šimonytė, referring to the Kremlin’s recent announcements that the transfer of Russian nuclear weapons to Belarusian territory had begun. The entire eastern flank of NATO must also be protected with ground-based anti-aircraft systems, she demanded. The Baltic States are participating in the German initiative European Sky Shield for the joint procurement of such systems and the establishment of an integrated European air defense.
Estonia and Latvia also want the German air defense system Iris-T buy, as Latvian Prime Minister Kariņš confirmed. Germany has delivered the system from Überlingen-based manufacturer Diehl Defense to Ukraine, where it has proven to be extremely effective in countering Russian guided missiles. The decision was announced by Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur on Sunday in Riga after a meeting with Latvian Defense Minister Inara Murniece. Details are not yet known, but it is said to be the largest arms deal since Latvia’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991; there is talk of several hundred million euros.
Scholz again assured the Baltic states that Germany was ready “to defend every square centimeter of NATO territory” and added: “I mean exactly that.” That is why Germany is directing its defense towards north-eastern Europe and is taking part Eurofighter– Fighter jets in air traffic control in the Baltic States, has increased its naval presence in the Baltic Sea and assigned a total of 17,000 soldiers to the NATO rapid reaction force. Also should German patriotBatteries will be relocated to Lithuania to protect the NATO summit, as the Federal Ministry of Defense announced in Berlin in the evening.
However, the proposal by the Baltic states to raise the targeted defense spending to three percent of the respective gross domestic product at the Vilnius summit meeting is unlikely to meet with much approval in Berlin. Despite the turning point and the special fund of 100 billion euros for the Bundeswehr in 2022, Germany clearly missed the agreed target of two percent and will probably not achieve it in the current year either. The Baltic States, on the other hand, will probably reach the three percent in 2023.