US Defense Secretary Lloyd J Austin III and Estonian Defence Minister Hanno Pevkur have announced their decision to step up support to Ukraine amid escalating attacks by Russia.  

The leaders also discussed defensive efforts by NATO ’s member states, as well as bilateral ties between Estonia and the US.

Minister Pevkur expressed his government’s commitment to offering continued assistance to Ukraine, and also to strengthen its own armed forces.

In this regard, Estonia plans to raise its defence budget by 42% in 2023. The Nato frontline state will set aside 3% of gross domestic product for defence spending, marking a ‘full percentage point higher’ than the goal set by the alliance.

Apart from working on enhancing ammunition stocks, the country is also investing in procuring High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, medium-range air defence capability, anti-tank, as well as anti-vessel systems.

Pevkur said: “We are extremely grateful for the long-term US security assistance that has helped us to accelerate the development of our military capability.

“I would like to thank the US for its leadership in supporting Ukraine, to fight for the country and for freedom.

“Of course, we will stand united with all of our allies today to make sure that, in the future, we will not look back and think we could have done more.”

Commenting on the Russian aggression, Austin said “more needs to be done” to support the Ukrainian military to keep its borders secure.

He also reiterated the US’ commitment to ‘defend every inch of Nato territory’.   

US soldiers and several Nato forces have been deployed across the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Meanwhile, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that the alliance will supply anti-drone air defence systems to Ukraine soon.  

The systems are intended to protect the nation’s key infrastructure against Iran-made drones used by Russia.