Dear Commandant Vaikšnoras, Officers, Ladies and gentlemen,
This year we celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Baltic Defence College, the 10th anniversary of Baltic membership in NATO and the 65th anniversary of the Alliance. So it is a good time to pay tribute to Baltic military cooperation, which has assisted the three Baltic states' integration into NATO, and is a smart way of pooling and sharing our defence resources.
The Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – are bound together by geography and geostrategic position. We are roughly similar in size. We share much history and also military history. Working together and building our skills in the Baltic Defence College, we have created a pool of qualified officers capable of dealing with that future – with future threats and challenges to our common security environment. Lest anyone thinks that this is a theoretical view, we need to look at last week's news to realise that even in Europe, things are not stable.
Knowledge and competence are key to success in military organisations. An army without educated officers is not an army, it is just a group of armed men.
Looking back at the origins of the decision to set up this defence college, it is important to bear in mind that while it was the defence ministers of the three Baltic states who agreed to cooperate in officer education, this project has been possible only because of the strong involvement of a far wider circle of our international friends - the Nordic countries, Germany, the UK, France and the US. Thanks to their good advice and to their support, the Baltic Defence College has been able to maintain its international spirit. This has been a notable benefit of this defence establishment as officers and civil servants from three countries get a first-hand international working experience.
The joint nature of the Baltic Defence College is a second benefit. Military personnel from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania working together and side-by-side with colleagues from so-called "old" Allied nations (although I'd like to get rid of 'old' in our 10th anniversary in the Alliance), have developed an "interoperability of minds" – the ability to quickly understand each other, make effective common decisions and trust each other. This is relevant for all Allied operations as we've experienced in past ten years in ISAF. But it has been greatly advanced by the creation and development of the Baltic Defence College in particular.
This evening the President of the United States, Barack Obama, called the presidents of the Baltic states, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Andris Bērziņš and Dalia Grybauskaitė to consult on the situation in Crimea.
At a meeting with President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzõ Abe, announced that Japan will be participating in the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn, will start bilateral cyber security co-operation with Estonia and wishes to join the Internet Freedom Coalition and establish close relations with the Nordic and Baltic countries. The prime minister described Estonia as a country that holds a leading position globally in the sphere of information technology and cyber issues.
The President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, and Evelin Ilves met today in Tokyo with Akihito, Emperor of Japan, and Empress Michiko.