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Estonian Foreign Minister On NATO And The Country's Neighbor Russia


Police in London say the attack near Parliament yesterday was an act of terrorism. A man used an SUV and a knife. Four people were killed, including him. Investigators say the attacker was inspired by international terrorism. And now ISIS is claiming responsibility for this attack, though that link has not been verified. And we should say, this happened at a moment when 68 foreign ministers from around the world were wrapping up two days of meetings in Washington focused on defeating ISIS. One person in attendance there, Estonia's foreign minister, Sven Mikser. And he visited our studio this morning.

Good morning.

MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS SVEN MIKSER: A very good morning to you, too.

GREENE: I wonder in these meetings you've been in in Washington, did any solution come up that could prevent an attack like this, where someone uses a car, a knife?

MIKSER: Well, obviously, it takes a lot of coordination and cooperation between different relevant agencies in all the countries. It's a common menace we are facing. And while ISIS is losing territory in the Middle East - in Syria, in Iraq - the threat is actually not necessarily diminishing in Europe or elsewhere in the world.

We know that there are many foreign fighters taking part in ISIS-led operations. And those foreign fighters might be coming back to our countries one day. So there is no quick solution to the problem, but we need to do what we can on the military front, also on humanitarian front, providing development aid to the countries that are most directly affected, trying to stabilize the areas that have been liberated from ISIS.

GREENE: And I know you had these meetings in Washington to talk about all of that. I want to turn, if I can, to Russia. Estonia, your country, has a painful past as a former Soviet republic. Russia is on your doorstep. You're a NATO member. How worried are you when you hear President Donald Trump criticize NATO while also talking about warmer relations with Vladimir Putin?

MIKSER: Well, I think that part of that criticism is actually quite justified. And we could hear similar criticism from Obama administration. I think this is...

GREENE: This is the criticism of NATO you're talking about.

MIKSER: The criticism of some of the allies not doing enough, not ready to bear a sufficient share or equitable share of the burden. I think that some of the allies have been taking out the peace dividend for far too long after the end of the Cold War. And now it's time to start spending again so that we can actually be ready to do what is necessary in order to, well, defeat ISIS on one front but also to deter other more conventional adversaries.

GREENE: We had Jens Stoltenberg, NATO's secretary general on the program yesterday. He said very much what you said, that he is glad that President Trump is putting pressure on countries to pay more for the NATO defense. He also said he had gotten over Trump calling NATO obsolete. Are you over that?

MIKSER: (Laughter) Well, basically, NATO is by no means obsolete. There were such concerns actually expressed after the end of the Cold War. And NATO proved to be a very relevant, a very vibrant organism. And while there are still many countries in the waiting room eager to get in, eager to get under the umbrella of the Washington Treaty, I think no one could call NATO obsolete. And I think that we do have very many friends and allies here in this city, here in this country. And majority of the security establishment and security thinkers are very happy to see NATO continuing on the path.

GREENE: We'll have to stop there, Mr. Foreign Minister. I apologize. Estonia's foreign minister, Sven Mikser, thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.