STA, 17 March 2019 - Defence Minister Karl Erjavec has said NATO is a bulwark of security in the Euro-Atlantic area and a cornerstone of Slovenian security, as he spoke to the STA ahead of Slovenia's 15th anniversary of NATO membership. "With limited funds we earmark for defence, it enables us to achieve more and do better."
"On its 70th anniversary, NATO is still a key common mechanism of guaranteeing security, freedom, democracy, the rule of law and development in the Euro-Atlantic area.
"It's primarily a bulwark of common values which are the basis of the social systems of its allies. All this is supported by a system of collective security," he says.
For Slovenia, it represents one of the basic elements of national security, believes Erjavec, who held the office of foreign minister before moving to defence.
"The alliance offers us the most suitable framework to pursue our national security interests, and a possibility of joint response to contemporary security challenges."
However, Slovenia must also assume a fair share of responsibilities, notes Erjavec, adding that if it was not a NATO member, it would have to invest much more in defence.
He says Slovenia has committed to spend more on defence not only because of NATO but foremost to have adequate capabilities for its own national security.
He notes the government has come up with an ambitious plan to raise defence spending in the coming years "aiming to meet this goal which was adopted jointly".
Looking back at the 15 years in NATO, Erjavec sees NATO's 2014 summit in Wales as one of the key events, bringing a "leap in understanding changes in security" and the related need to adjust to contemporary security challenges.
Noting NATO is working on a new military strategy, he says that "just like other allies, Slovenia will strengthen its defence capabilities and pursue the commitments to raise defence spending".
"We too will join the implementation of a boosted presence in the East, where we take part in a battlegroup in Latvia. Special efforts will also have to be made to boost the country's cybersecurity."
Over the past decade and a half, the main events in Slovenia have been the integration of the Slovenian army in NATO's military structure, which was completed in 2009.
This showed according to the minister that the army was capable of working together with other allies.
Another important event was two of its units (a nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological battalion and the Role-2 medical unit) becoming NATO-certified units, showing Slovenia can contribute its capabilities into the system of collective defence.
Erjavec also highlights the deployment of troops to Kosovo. "This has been the biggest contribution so far in the history of cooperation in international operations, and it puts us on a par with the most advanced armies."
The minister believes that in its 70-year history, NATO has proved "an incredibly strong alliance able to adjust and react to various threats and challenges despite sometimes different interests and stances of its sovereign members".
Commenting on tensions between European allies and the US under President Donald Trump, and on the EU's boosting its security and defence component, Erjavec says this does not "double efforts by NATO, which remains the basis of collective defence, but strengthens the European pillar within NATO".
The EU's efforts should not been seen as competition to NATO or the US. "The European security and defence efforts present a positive contribution to providing Euro-Atlantic security." says Erjavec, noting NATO and the EU are "natural partners" which share their common values and strategic interests in facing common challenges.
As for NATO's focus on Russia since the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis, the minister says "the alliance does not want a confrontation with Russia".
However, "it clearly and resolutely protects NATO's principles and democratic values, as well as peace, security and stability of all of its members", according to Erjavec.
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