Forum: Estonia's people safer because it joined Nato, EU

Russia's unprovoked war against Ukraine has undermined the international rules-based order. Its brutal and intentional targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure takes us back to a pre-United Nations world.

This is a world inimical to the security and survival of small states - where might is right - as Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan described recently in Parliament (Russia's invasion of Ukraine a clear and gross violation of international norms: Vivian Balakrishnan, Feb 28).

Despite their different histories, geographies and culture, small countries like Singapore and Estonia have a lot in common, especially how they view their security.

We believe that one must first invest in one's own defence and resilience - nobody will come to protect you if you are not ready to do so yourself.

Even after it had joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), Estonia never outsourced its defence to other countries.

Despite our small size and vulnerable geographical location, we have continually invested in our national defence capabilities and a reserve army.

But we also know, and as the war in Ukraine has shown, that it's not enough - we have to be allied with a stronger force, which shares and protects the same values such as the freedom to choose. The freedom to make your own choices - that is how a country defines its sovereignty.

Thirty years ago, when Estonia escaped from Soviet occupation, it lost 20 per cent of its population, had no functional economy and was saddled with corrupt institutions.

Estonia's development since could not have happened without the country joining two values-based organisations - the European Union and Nato - as these have safeguarded the ecosystem for our people and businesses to fulfil their dreams.

Those who claim that Nato enlargement has been a mistake need to come up with better arguments than repeating Moscow's claim that its neighbours are somehow a threat to Russian security for having chosen a path of becoming open and democratic societies.

One of the wisest diplomats and the most admirable person I have ever met, Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh, said in a recent Straits Times piece (Ukraine, international law and the security of small states, March 5): "In 1993, I was the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Russia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania… I took the opportunity to recommend to the leaders of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, to apply to join the EU, for their economic well-being, and to join Nato, for their security. Today, all three countries are members of EU and Nato."

Today, Estonia is a prosperous sovereign country with a newly established embassy in Singapore, and our people are much safer thanks to that advice.

Priit Turk

Estonia's Ambassador to Singapore

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