Secretary Mattis Hosts Enhanced Honor Cordon Welcoming Minister of Defence Jüri Luik of Estonia to the Pentagon

Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis; Minister of Defence Juri Luik of Estonia

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JAMES N. MATTIS:  Well, Mr. Minister, it's good to have you here.  I would just tell you, Minister Luik and, ambassador, excellency, welcome.  You and your delegation are welcome here in the Pentagon.


I would just tell you that, having last seen you in February at the NATO Defense Ministerial, it was very good to see our two flags flying together out in front of the Pentagon just now.


And I congratulate you on the hundredth anniversary of Estonia's independence.  You're a young country, and we don't say that often around here.  (Laughter.)


But since your independence, our two nations have certainly steadily fostered strong relations, even during the very difficult periods in your history.  And today, we have shared democratic values and we share, also, the desire for transatlantic unity between us, recognizing the strength that goes both directions.


The United States remains steadfastly committed to Baltic defense, as NATO reinforces respect for territorial integrity and guards against common security threats like those posed by Russia, as it seeks to re-draw international borders by force, and pursues veto authority over European nations:  diplomatic, economic and security decisions.


And as our secretary general, Stoltenberg, said this last Monday, "NATO does not want a new Cold War.  We are responding because we see a more assertive Russia."


Since 2012, Estonia has exceeded the Wales pledge, since more than 2 percent of GDP is spent on defense spending, demonstrating your commitment to share the defense burden for Europe, and ensuring NATO remains fit for our times.


As well as Estonia's offer to deploy up to 40 additional personnel to the mission in Afghanistan, thank you.  We're grateful for that sort of real support.


Your pragmatic response to the cyberattack in 2007, following the relocation of a Red Army soldier statue in Tallinn gave rise to NATO's Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence.


Today, that provides a welcome opportunity for us to recognize your nation's leadership in this domain, and to discuss the next steps in cyber cooperation.  We appreciate your leadership in this new area of competition.


Estonia's efforts illustrate the size of a nation is less important than its commitment to its own and to the region's security.  And your nation truly punches above its weight.


I look forward to discussing steps to strengthen our military relationship here today, ensuring that we pass the freedoms intact to the next generation of our citizens.


So Mr. Minister, again, you are most welcome here.  Thank you.




SEC. MATTIS:  If you'd like to say a few words...


MIN. LUIK:  Thank you, secretary, for your kind remarks.  And I'm extremely glad to be here at the Pentagon, which I believe is one of the important centers of maintaining security and stability in the world.  And, obviously, the strong transatlantic relationship, the strength of which is so important to both your country and ours.


I would like to salute your personal commitment to the transatlantic relationship, and I think it is extremely important that the United States has maintained a very strong engagement, a very strong commitment to transatlantic values.


I mean, you are a crucial part of defending the values.  You are a crucial part of maintaining the strength of our alliance.  Let's be honest.  I mean, without the U.S. commitment, the deterrent, the defense capabilities of our transatlantic family would be not sufficient to fulfill all these complicated tasks which we face.


Estonia does its part.  I mean, we are a small country but we spend 2 percent of our GDP -- now, more than 2 percent of our GDP because we believe that the message of equal burden-sharing is important, both politically and in real terms.


And we also very happy that there is a strong feeling inside the alliance, that we should be more active in operations which need stronger commitment by all allies.  So as you -- as you pointed out, we are raising the number of our troops in Afghanistan.  I know that you are raising the number of troops in Afghanistan.


So I think we -- the new strategy which you have outlined has a lot of potential.  So let's try to -- let's try to fulfill it.


Finally, I think it is extremely important that we would also face the challenges of new risks and new threats.  As you pointed out, secretary, the questions of cyber defense have become to the forefront of defending our alliance.  And I think a lot remains to be done.


And, again, Estonia is a country who has a lot to offer here because we have certain capabilities.  We also have been victims of a major cyberattack.  So cooperation in that field would be of utmost importance.


So I'm very, very happy to be here.  Thank you.


SEC. MATTIS:  Thank you, Mr. Minister, excellency, members of the delegation.  Your ideas are welcome here.  You're welcome here.  And if the press will excuse us, we'll get to work.  Thank you.


Q:  Mr. Secretary, what do you think of the announcement from South Korea?  Do you see any evidence that North Korea won't stop its nuclear proliferation?  And how does that affect your military planning with resuming South Korean exercises in April?


SEC. MATTIS:  It's a good question.  Obviously, we're cautiously optimistic that there is some forward progress here.  But we've been optimistic before, so we're going to have to watch actions and see if they match words.


But thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.