Threats to Europe's Security Architecture

Address by H.E. Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of the Republic of Estonia

06/11/2014 | 17:00 - 18:30 | DGAP Berlin | Invitation only

Speech

Category: Baltic states, Security

President Toomas Hendrik Ilves was unequivocal in his speech at the DGAP in stating that the events in Ukraine have fundamentally shaken European security.

DGAP / Dirk Enters, CC BY

Toomas Hendrik Ilves, president of Estonia since 2006

The post World-War-II order based on respect for territorial sovereignty and common values is under threat. “We are in the situation that we hoped never to be in again.” The rise of “us-against-them” rhetoric also poses a danger. Ilves called for stronger leadership from the EU, from NATO – and from Germany in particular.

Europe faces a “boiling frog syndrome,” warned President Ilves at the DGAP on November 6, drawing on a vivid metaphor for the inability of people to react to problems that occur incrementally. If threats creep up too gradually, nations – like the proverbial live frog in the saucepan – may fail to notice that they have landed in very hot water indeed. With respect to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, some states are simply underestimating the gravity of the situation. “If we look at the picture, we don’t know where we are slowly going,” he said. At a time when borders are no longer inviolable, Europe’s postwar security architecture is at grave risk of collapsing. Ilves called on Germany, as the biggest state in Europe, to take the lead in mediating. Its experience both Eastern and Western regimes moreover makes it an invaluable dialogue partner.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves has been president of Estonia since 2006. He served as the country’s foreign minister from 1996 to 1998 and was a member of European Parliament in from 2004 to 2006.

The Estonian statesman clarified why the decisions taken at the recent NATO summit in Wales to station NATO troops in Eastern Europe were in line with the provisions made in the Founding Act of 1997 for NATO-Russian Cooperation. The founding act was based on the “current and foreseeable security environment.” The conflict of today however, represents “a new and unforeseen” security situation. Therefore, the old security architecture no longer applies. Ilves called on the international community to find a way to reinforce and revalidate the existing security architecture. Before the water gets too hot.

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