Speakers 2021

Margiris Abukevičius 

Vice-minister of National Defence, Ministry of National Defence of Lithuania 

Margiris Abukevičius has been the Vice-minister of National Defence since December 2020. He is responsible for international cooperation and cybersecurity. Prior to this, he was the Senior Advisor at the Cyber Security and Information Technology Policy Department of the Ministry of National Defence. From 2015 to 2019 he served as Defence Advisor and Cyber Attaché at the Permanent Representation of Lithuania to the EU. He was also one of the initiators and developers of the Lithuanian-led PESCO Cyber Rapid Response Teams project. He has had a long career at the Ministry of National Defence where he held responsibilities concerning EU Common Security and Defence Policy from 2004 to 2014.

Twitter: @AbukeviciusM

Benedetta Berti

Head of Policy Planning in the Office of the Secretary General at NATO 

Dr Benedetta Berti is Head of Policy Planning in the Office of the Secretary General at NATO. She is Associate Researcher at the Centre for Security, Diplomacy and Strategy at Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Visiting Professor at the College of Europe and a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. An Eisenhower Global Fellow and a TED Senior Fellow, in the past Dr Berti has held positions at West Point, The Institute for National Security Studies and Tel Aviv University, among others. 

Twitter: @benedettabertiw

Una Bērziņa-Čerenkova  

Head of the China Studies Centre at Riga Stradins University and Head of the Asia Programme at the Latvian Institute of International Affairs 

Dr Bērziņa-Čerenkova is a political scientist, China scholar, Head of the Political Science PhD Programme and the China Studies Centre at Riga Stradins University, Head of the Asia Programme at the Latvian Institute of International Affairs, and a member of the China in Europe Research Network. After having defended her doctoral dissertation on traditional Chinese discourse, she has held a senior visiting research scholar position at Fudan University School of Philosophy, Shanghai, China, and a Fulbright visiting scholar position at the Center for East Asia Studies, Stanford University. She is a European China Policy Fellow at MERICS and an affiliate of the Lau Institute at Kings College, London. Dr Bērziņa-Čerenkova publishes works on Peoples Republic of China political discourse, contemporary Chinese ideology, EU-China relations, Russia-China relations, and the Belt and Road Initiative. 

Twitter: @UCerenkova

James Heappey MP 

Minister for the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom 

James Heappey was elected as the Member of Parliament for the Wells Constituency in May 2015. He joined the Ministry of Defence in December 2019, as Minister for Defence Procurement, before being appointed as Minister for the Armed Forces in February 2020. He had previously served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister. Before entering politics he served in the Army reaching the rank of Major. In a ten-year career in the Rifles, Heappey served on operations in Kabul in 2005, Northern Ireland in 2006, Basra in 2007 and Sangin in Helmand Province in 2009. His focus in Parliament before being appointed as Minister was on all things tech, green and/or disruptive. 

Twitter: @JSHeappey

Kaja Kallas 

Prime Minister of Estonia 

Kaja Kallas has been the Prime Minister of Estonia since January 2021. She has been the leader of the Reform Party since 2018, and a Member of Parliament from 2019 to 2021, and previously from 2011 to 2014. Between the two terms at the Estonian Parliament, from 2014 to 2018, Kallas served as a Member of the European Parliament (representing the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe), where her primary focus was on the Digital Single Market strategy, and energy and consumer policies. Before entering politics she was an attorney-at-law, specialising in European and Estonian competition law, and a partner in two law firms.

Twitter: @kajakallas

Alar Karis 

President of Estonia 

Prior to taking office as the President of Estonia in October 2021, Alar Karis was the Director of the Estonian National Museum (from 2018). President Karis served as the Auditor-General of Estonia in 2013 to 2018, and before that as the Rector of the Estonian University of Life Sciences from 2003 to 2007 and of the University of Tartu in 2007 to 2012. Most of President Karis’s scientific career has focused on research and teaching in molecular genetics and developmental biology. He has worked at universities in Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, and joined the University of Tartu as a professor in 1999.

Twitter: @AlarKaris

Andrei Kolesnikov

Senior Fellow and Chair of the Programme, Carnegie Moscow Center 

Andrei Kolesnikov is a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center. Не also works with the Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy and is a columnist for Gazeta.ru, Forbes.ru, and The Moscow Times. He sits on the board of the Yegor Gaidar Foundation, is a member of the Scientific Advisory Council of the Finnish Institute of Foreign Affairs, and a member of the Advisory Council of Transparency International Russia. Kolesnikov previously was the Managing Editor of Novaya Gazeta newspaper. He has won numerous journalism awards, including the Russian Golden Quill (Zolotoye Pero Rossii) Award, the Adam Smith Prize, and the Federal Press Agency Award. Kolesnikov is the author of several books, including the recently released biography of reform architect Yegor Gaidar and an analysis of how speechwriters have impacted history.

Twitter: @AndrKolesnikov

Kalle Laanet 

Minister of Defence of Estonia 

Prior to becoming the Minister of Defence of Estonia, Kalle Laanet was a Member of Parliament of Estonia, Riigikogu, from 2007 to 2021. In Riigikogu he held several offices: Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Deputy Chairman of the Security Authorities Surveillance Select Committee, Chairman of the Constitutional Committee, Deputy Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee and Deputy Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee. Prior to becoming a Member of Parliament, Laanet served as the Minister of the Interior from 2005 to 2007. Before going into politics, Laanet worked in the Estonian Police force.

Twitter: @MOD_Estonia

Jüri Luik 

Permanent Representative of Estonia to NATO 

Ambassador Jüri Luik, currently Permanent Representative of Estonia to NATO, has served as the Minister of Defence of Estonia several times. He has also served as the countrys Foreign Minister, as well as Ambassador to Moscow, NATO and Washington and as the Director of the International Centre for Defence and Security (ICDS) in Tallinn. As a Minister without Portfolio, he led the talks with Russia on the withdrawal of Russian forces from Estonia. Ambassador Luik is a valued expert on defence and security policy and one of the key architects of Estonias NATO policy.

Twitter: @estNATO

Guillaume Ollagnier 

Head of the Department for Europe, North America and Multilateral Affairs at the Directorate General for International Relations and Strategy (DGRIS) at the Ministry for the Armed Forces of France 

Guillaume Ollagnier has been Head of the Department for Europe, North America and Multilateral Affairs at the Directorate General for International Relations and Strategy (DGRIS) at the Ministry for the Armed Forces of France since April 2021. Prior to joining the DGRIS, Ollagnier was Minister-Counsellor of the French Embassy in Berlin from 2017 to 2021. Ollagnier was Technical Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2014 to 2016 and to the Prime Minister for Strategic Affairs, Russia, the Commonwealth of Independent States and Asia from 2012 to 2014. He was Political and Press Counsellor at the Permanent Delegation of France to NATO from 2011 to 2012 and Special Advisor to the Secretary General of the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs from 2008 to 2011. 

Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos 

Minister of National Defence of the Hellenic Republic 

Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos has been Minister of National Defence of the Hellenic Republic since July 2019. He was elected as a Member of the Hellenic Parliament with “Nea Dimokratia” in the district of Kavala in 2007 and re-elected in all following elections. He was Deputy Minister of Labour, Social Security and Social Solidarity from 2012 to 2013. He practised Criminal Law in Kavala from 1999 to 2007 and worked as International Marketing Director at “Marbles Kavalas SA” from 1992 to 1999. 

Twitter: @npanagioto

Kristina Prišmantaitė 

Director of the Centre for Defence Analysis at the General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania 

As the Director of the Centre for Defence Analysis at the General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania, Dr Kristina Prišmantaitė is responsible for the management of the Centre’s research and training activities in the areas of national security and defence. Dr Prišmantaitė is also a member of the Military Erasmus (EMILYO) Implementation Group at the European Security and Defence College (Belgium). Dr Prišmantaitė was previously an Associate Professor at the security policy research group at the General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania (2019–2020), a Lecturer at the Baltic Defence College in Estonia (2016-2019) and a member of faculty at the National Defence Academy of Latvia (2017–2019). She has also served as a member of the Executive Academic Board at the European Security and Defence College in Belgium (2016–2019).

Michael Rouland 

Director of Research and Deputy Director of the Russia Strategic Initiative, U.S. European Command 

Dr Michael Rouland is Director of Research and a Deputy Director of the Russia Strategic Initiative, U.S. European Command. He previously served as senior historian for the Joint History and Research Office, Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, specialising in the history of Russia, China, and the global integration of the joint force. He served as the senior historian for the Chief of Staff of the Army from 2014 to 2018. He has provided more than a decade of direct analytical support to senior leaders in defence and participated in several key working groups, including the U.S. Armys European Strategy Assessment Team, the Mosul Study Group, and the Raqqah Study Group. He has taught Russian studies at the School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University since 2010.

Twitter: @US_EUCOM

Kusti Salm 

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence of Estonia 

Kusti Salm has served as the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence of Estonia from May 2021, having previously held the position of Director General of the Estonian Centre of Defence Investment (starting from 2019). Salm joined the Ministry of Defence of Estonia in 2007, working as an Advisor for EU defence policy, and moving on to other positions including Armaments Cooperation Counsellor at the Permanent Representation of Estonia to NATO (2011–2015) and Director of Defence Investments Department (2016–2019). In 2017, Salm was the Chief Negotiator and Chairman of the EU working group dealing with the European Defence Industrial Development Programme. 

Twitter: @MOD_Estonia

Kyllike Sillaste-Elling 

Director General of the Department for NATO and Transatlantic Relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia 

Kyllike Sillaste-Elling is the Director General of the Department for NATO and Transatlantic Relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia. She served as Permanent Representative of Estonia to NATO from 2017 to 2021. She has worked as Foreign Policy Advisor to the President of the Republic of Estonia as well as Foreign Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister. She has been a diplomat since 1996 and has served in a number of positions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including as Undersecretary for Political Affairs from 2013 to 2016. She has been posted to London, Washington and Brussels.

Twitter: @KyllikeSillaste

Patrick Turner 

NATO Assistant Secretary General for Defence Policy and Planning 

Patrick Turner became NATO Assistant Secretary General for Defence Policy and Planning in 2018. Prior to that his roles have included: NATO Assistant Secretary General for Operations (2015–2018); UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Council (2011–2015); Command Secretary, Headquarters Land Command (2010–2011); Minister (Defence) at the British Embassy in Washington (2008–2010); Director, National Security Strategy Team, Cabinet Office (2007); Director, Deterrent Options Policy, Ministry of Defence (2005–2007); Director Policy Planning, Ministry of Defence (1999–2002); Co-head of Strategic Defence Review Implementation Team (1998–1999)and Deputy Director, Private Office of NATO Secretary General (1992–1996). He has worked for three Secretary Generals: Manfred Wörner, Willy Claes and Javier Solana. 

Sławomir Wojciechowski 

Lieutenant General, Commander Multinational Corps Northeast 

Lieutenant General Sławomir Wojciechowski is a commissioned officer of the Polish Land Forces and has been Commander of Multinational Corps Northeast since September 2018. He has occupied a number of responsible positions connected with leading and commanding forces in the country as well as abroad. Prior to starting his tenure in Szczecin, he was the Operational Commander of the Polish Armed Forces. Before that, he commanded the 17th Polish Mechanised Brigade and served as Deputy Chief in the Operational Planning Directorate of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces, to name but a few of his assignments. He was also deployed on missions both in Iraq and in Afghanistan.