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Nordic, Baltic Ministers Discuss Security Cooperation

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

TALLINN, Estonia, June 8, 2002 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld met here today with the defense ministers from the Nordic and Baltic nations to discuss security cooperation in the region, the war on terrorism and the Baltic states' NATO aspirations.

Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia have applied to become NATO members. NATO countries will decide in Prague, Czech Republic, in November whether to admit them and seven other countries. The three Baltic countries are widely expected to be accepted into the alliance.

Estonian Minister of Defense Sven Mikser said NATO membership wouldn't just be a boost to his country's security situation. "Actually, we see NATO as the Estonian security arrangement for the future," he said in a press conference following the meetings.

Mikser made a point oft-repeated among the world's defense leaders in recent days: specialization and cooperation are the key to being relevant to an alliance.

"There are so many new security risks appearing," he said. "And a small country like Estonia can never afford the whole spectrum of military capabilities to counter all those threats that are in the world very much today."

Norway provided the perfect example of what Mikser was discussing. Norway and Denmark specialize in fighter-jet capabilities, which allows them to provide a much-needed, specialized capability to NATO. In October, Norway and Denmark will deploy F-16s to Afghanistan to support coalition operations there.

"The advice we give (the Baltic countries) is to cooperate closely," Norwegian Defense Minister Kristin Krohn Devold said at the press conference. "Because the only way small countries like Norway and Denmark and the Baltic countries can bring something relevant into NATO is to cooperate."

She said her country's expertise with F-16s gives Norway "the opportunity to be relevant to NATO and to pay our contribution to a more modern NATO than what we have today."

Rumsfeld said the Baltic countries will have to decide for themselves what areas to specialize in and whether to do it collectively or individually. "Each country in NATO makes contributions that are appropriate to them as countries," he said.

Rumsfeld told the press conference that many NATO countries - including the United States - favor a "robust round" of NATO entrants. And, he said, the Baltic states are working hard and "doing all the things that are necessary to make them fully qualified for membership in terms of the contributions they can bring."

He noted the Nordic and Baltic countries are much like the United States, in that they support free political and economic systems. "Our interest is in providing for our defense and to be able to make contributions to peace and stability in the world," he said of the United States and the countries represented at this meeting.

From here, Rumsfeld travels to the Persian Gulf to meet with several countries aiding in the war on terrorism and then will visit with the leaders of India and Pakistan to further the Bush administration's efforts to encourage a peaceful solution to the disagreements between the two countries.

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