HS Interview | Estonian President Karis: “There is no Baltic or Nordic defense zone, there is NATO”

Estonian president Alar Karis congratulated Alexander Stubbia in Finnish on election night, as soon as Yle had published its result calculation on the messaging service X, i.e. the former Twitter:

“Twin to twin – congratulations President @alexstubb!

The saying that Estonia and Finland are like twins belongs to you. We are more closely together than ever before, together in all the unions that maintain the well-being and safety of our region.”

The congratulatory text referred to an interview with Stubb, then foreign minister Postman– magazine in 2010:

“We are brotherly nations. Our relationship is unique. We are like two berries, like twins,” Stubb said.

Stubb’s twin speech may sound a bit exaggerated for Finns who are oriented towards the Nordic countries, but it appeals to many Estonians.

President Karis will come to Finland on Tuesday for a two-day visit. He speaks Martti Ahtisaaren at the memorial seminar in Jyväskylä. On Wednesday, he will have lunch with the president Sauli Niinistön with.

The hope was also the first meeting with the future president of Finland.

Karis, who moved from the university world to president, has not met Stubb, but knows about this through publicity.

“A very charismatic person, as the representative of a small state must be,” says Karis in the Estonian Presidential Palace on Monday during her visit to Finland.

When Finland is now also in NATO, cooperation is increasing in many areas, Karis estimates.

He praises how Finland has built a strong national defense and taken care of population shelters.

“We have lessons to learn from it.”

And correspondingly, Estonia can share its experience in NATO.

“Estonia has been in NATO for 20 years, and we can certainly share our experience of the cooperation we have had with other states.”

At the same time, Karis warns against block thinking.

“The most important thing is that there are no dividing lines: here runs the Baltic defense zone, here the Nordic defense zone and here the German defense zone. Everyone is the same NATO,” he says.

So is this a threat in NATO?

“No,” says Karis.

He emphasizes that care must be taken to ensure that blocks do not form.

“We are expanding the defense on both sides of the Gulf of Finland and around the Baltic Sea. We are not only talking about the Baltic countries and the Nordic countries, but also about Poland and Germany.”

Finland has announced that, together with the other Nordic countries, it will work under the command center located in Norfolk, USA. In Estonia, it had been expected that Finland and Sweden would join the Brunssum command center located in the Netherlands, as it is responsible for the Baltic Sea region. That’s where Finland has ended up so far.

“Experts have looked at what makes the most sense in terms of NATO’s defense capability,” says Karis.

“Now Finland is in it (under Brunssum) with us. If it justifies itself, I believe it will continue in the same way.”

Different countries have different wishes, says Karis.

“When Finland has always belonged to the same region with Norway and Sweden, it naturally has the desire to continue doing so. But NATO must be viewed as a whole.”

Karis sees the participation of Finnish fighters in NATO’s peacetime air surveillance in Romania as an indication of a broader vision: countries that are not close neighbors must also be defended.

For Estonia it has been important to keep the great powers, such as Britain and France, on their soil. According to some claims, Finland’s military presence is therefore not even wanted in Estonia.

“You can’t say that we don’t want Finland here. We have a lot to learn from Finland, and not just us,” says Karis.

President Karis’ confidence in NATO is not even shaken Donald Trumpwhich questioned US support for the NATO ally at the election ceremony on Saturday. Trump said he would not come to the aid of a NATO country that does not spend two percent of its gross domestic product on defense.

It’s about Trump’s way of expressing himself, Karis thinks.

“In practice, we in Europe have been saying the same thing, that NATO member states should invest at least two percent (of gross national product in defense) in Europe. Estonia will contribute three percent.”

Finland Karis would especially like to promote teaching and scientific cooperation. Almost a thousand Finns are already studying in Estonia, he says.

Karis warns about near blindness.

“Finland is so close that we don’t even notice. We keep our province. Therein lies the threat that we will forget cooperation.”

At the Presidential Palace, Karis also clarifies her congratulatory message to Stubb a little. The republics of Finland and Estonia were born at the same time, but that does not mean that they are the same.

“I am a molecular geneticist by training. Twins are not alike, not even twins from the same egg.”

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