Today, the Riigikogu held a discussion on the important national issue “Sustainable Development of National Military Defence” initiated by the National Defence Committee, where the Minister of Defence, Kalle Laanet, and the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Martin Herem, delivered presentations on the development needs for national defence.
The Minister of Defence, Kalle Laanet, noted that the threat image has not improved in the last year. "Russia continues to pursue an aggressive and hostile policy towards the Western world, and the ongoing health crisis has added vaccine diplomacy to Russia's arsenal of influence operations in addition to cyber attacks and information warfare,” said Laanet. The Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Martin Herem, added that conventional military means continue to play an important role in achieving the national ambitions of the Russian Federation, and the development of these capabilities has not stopped during COVID19.
According to Laanet, the strategic exercise Zapad 2021 taking place in September will once again demonstrate Russia's actual military plans. “What is practised, is also what is planned to be executed, if possible, as was done in Georgia and Ukraine," said Laanet, adding that the Putin regime needs a new success story. “This means that Estonia must make even greater efforts in the coming years to strengthen its military defence, both independently and in cooperation with the allies,” added Laanet.
Laanet explained that in the last decade, great development has occurred in the field of defence – infantry fighting vehicles and new medium- and long-range anti-tank weapons were introduced, short-range air defence was developed and the replacement of handguns was started, the Cyber Command was established.
“A high-tech breakthrough in warfare is ongoing, but the main platforms of conventional weapons – tanks, attack aircrafts, artillery weapons, etc. – will not lose their importance for a long time to come," said Laanet.
Laanet noted that although Estonian national defence is one of the most cost-effective in the entire North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, staying at the level of two percent, as is the economic prognosis for the post-epidemic time, essentially means cutting the military structure planned to date.
The Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces added that establishing the current structures at a cheaper cost would mean self-deception, where the units that seem to exist on paper do not actually have ammunition, means of communication, they are not trained or trained.
“In compiling the National Defence Development Plan 2030, we have already made significant internal cuts in both the fixed costs and the cost models of military units,” he stated.
According to Laanet, defence costs at a level of 2.6 percent of the GDP would be sufficient to fill the gaps in primary independent defence capabilities. He explained that this means acquiring coastal defence missile systems, naval mines and medium-range air defence systems, but also merging naval fleets into an optimal and better-performing navy in terms of command and cost.
“The situation at sea is of growing concern to our allies as well," said Laanet, adding that the role of allies in Estonia's defence cannot be underestimated. "The more we can demonstrate our commitment to our defence and our ability and willingness to build real and necessary defence capabilities, the more the allies are prepared to shoulder us," he said.
"I consider it very important that Estonia finds an opportunity to become a spokesperson for Nordic-Baltic military co-operation. But we can be credibly demanding in this only if our homework is graded to the mark of at least four,” said the Minister of Defence, Laanet.
The Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, Martin Herem, also emphasized the need for co-operation between the three Baltic States. "Developments in the military capabilities of the Russian Federation increasingly suggest that, together with the Baltic States and our closest neighbours, we must be ready to act not only in our territories, but in the entire area of operations, including the Baltic Sea," said Herem and revealed that developing such capabilities in full or partly means increasing military defence costs to 2.6% over the next 10 years.
Finally, the Minister of Defence, Laanet, summarized the lessons from Covid-19. "The crisis has shown that national defence organizations can also play a key role in managing civilian crises as well as how important the Estonian Defence League is in addition to the Estonian Defence Forces," he added.
"When compiling the new National Defence Development Plan 2021-2030, we have been very aware of the fact that the level of Estonia's defence costs is unambiguously dependent on the well-being of the Estonian economy," he said.
Laanet said that in addition to the Estonian defence industry, the development of the Estonian Defence Forces and the Estonian Defence League involves many other production companies and service providers. Almost half of the defence investments budget is directed back into the Estonian economy and supports employment.
“Estonia has to do everything in its power to ensure that the epidemic will not infect the core functions of our country, that the exhaustion caused by the epidemic will not make us lose our ambitions and determination in developing our national defence for the next decade," concluded Laanet.
Indrek Kannik, the Director of the International Centre for Defence and Security, also gave a presentation on the security environment in our region.
Additional info: press[at]kaitseministeerium[dot]ee