Strengthening Baltic Societal Resilience and Military Defence

The Annual Baltic Conference on Defence (ABCD) 2020, 29-30 September in Tallinn, Estonia

Introduction and agenda


The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of societal resilience both in a pandemic and also as an integral part of national defence against military threats. Despite the significant impact of the Corona virus on the global economy, military threats have not disappeared. Since 2017 NATO’s conventional deterrence of Russian aggression in the Baltic region has relied on a limited forward presence (eFP) together with national forces that are backed up with conventional forces deployed in home nations but ready to reinforce, if need be. In case of an armed attack, or its imminent threat, nations would need to mobilise their resources to strengthen both their military capabilities and their societal resilience. Military and civil structures would require augmentation by reservists and volunteers.

At ABCD 2020 we will discuss:

  • the initial lessons identified for nations, NATO and the EU from the COVID-19 crisis and their relevance to collective defence, national defence and societal resilience;
  • different examples of military support to civil authorities during the COVID-19 crisis;
  • the role of reserves, including members of voluntary defence organisations, in the foreseeable security environment addressing both military threats and civil emergencies, such as the COVID-19 crisis;
  • how the US and NATO Allies could effectively deter and defend against Russian aggression;
  • what options for capability and force structure changes the Baltic states could consider to enhance their ability to deter and defend against Russian aggression as part of an integrated NATO approach;
  • the extent to which reserves can meet the higher qualitative requirements placed on our forces;
  • the impact of societal change, including population mobility, since the end of the Cold War on the credibility of force structures that rely on reserves;
  • innovative ways in which the defence forces can draw upon the whole-of-society resources in a military crisis.

ABCD 2020 is organised by the International Centre for Defence and Security and the Ministry of Defence of Estonia in cooperation with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) and the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers (CIOR). KAS was established in 1955 and focuses on consolidating democracy, the unification of Europe and the strengthening of transatlantic relations, as well as on development cooperation. CIOR has since 1947 represented the interests of up to 1.3 million reservists in NATO member nations who stand ready to reinforce the Alliance in times of emergency, not only military emergencies but also humanitarian.



Tuesday, 29 September

19:00-21:00 Welcome dinner (by invitation only)
Address by Jüri RATAS, Prime Minister of Estonia


Wednesday, 30 September

08:00-09:00 Registration & coffee

09:00-10:15 Opening Session: Welcoming & keynote speeches
The welcoming speech by H.E. Kersti KALJULAID, President of Estonia

Keynote speeches:
H.E. Prof. João GOMES CRAVINHO, Minister of National Defence of Portugal
Jüri LUIK, Minister of Defence of Estonia

Followed by a discussion moderated by Sven SAKKOV, Director of the ICDS

10:15-10:45 Coffee break

10:45-12:15 Session One: The security and defence policy implications of COVID-19
The Baroness GOLDIE DL, Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence, United Kingdom
María Elena GÓMEZ CASTRO, Defence Policy Director, Ministry of Defence of Spain
Jan-Olof LIND, State Secretary, Ministry of Defence of Sweden
Dr. John MANZA, NATO Assistant Secretary General

Moderator: Tomas JERMALAVICIUS, Head of Studies / Research Fellow, ICDS

12:15-13:30 Lunch

13:30-15:00 Session Two: Deterrence and defence in the Baltic Sea region
Janne KUUSELA, Defence Policy Director, Ministry of Defence of Finland
General Jörg VOLLMER, Commander Joint Forces Command Brunssum
Lieutenant General Christopher G. CAVOLI, Commanding General U.S. Army Europe
Dr. Vaidotas URBELIS, Defence Policy Director, Ministry of National Defence of Lithuania

Moderator: Dr. Margarita ŠEŠELGYTĖ, Director, Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Vilnius University

15:00-15:30 Coffee break

15:30-17:00 Session Three: The role of reserves in the foreseeable security environment
Brigadier The Rt Hon The Lord LANCASTER, Chair of the UK Reserve Forces 2030 Review, serving Reservist Brigadier and former Minister of State for the Armed Forces, United Kingdom
Lieutenant General (Retired) Erik GUSTAVSON, Secretary General of the Norwegian Reserve Officers’ Association
Major General Lena PERSSON HERLITZ, Head of Policy and Plans Department, Swedish Armed Forces Headquarters
Brigadier General Veiko-Vello PALM, Chief of the Headquarters of the Estonian Defence Forces

Moderator: Sarah Alexandra GEORGE, Lieutenant, Army Reserve, United Kingdom

17:00-17:20 Closing Session
Concluding remarks by Sven SAKKOV, Director of the ICDS


Attendance at the conference is by invitation only. If you wish to contact us for more details, please write to abcd[at]


The main sponsor of the ABCD 2020 is EuroSpike. Nammo, BAE Systems, DefSecIntel and Milworks are also supporting the conference.