Estonian national defence is based on initial self-defence capability as well as membership in NATO.
Initial self-defence capability is a necessary role for all Estonian citizens, who are committed constitutionally to participate in national defence. All male citizens of legal age must participate in military service, although every citizen also has the opportunity of volunteering their services to national defence, for example joining the Defence League.
Estonia’s primary defence capability forms a military force that supports the activation of NATO’s collective defence mechanism. Estonia does not need to develop all its military capabilities independently, instead as a NATO member, they can develop capabilities in cooperation with NATO allies.
Initial self-defence capability must support national military defence with rapid military reactions as well as effecting basic collective defence even in situations when suddenly attacked by a greatly larger enemy force. In this situation the well prepared situation training of the Estonian Defence Forces and the Defence League as well as support elements and organizations guarantees the proper use of resources.
Reserve army and active service
The Estonian Defence Forces wartime structure forms units with different levels of preparedness, made up of active service members, reservists and members of the Defence League. The main strength of the Defence Forces are the reserve units that consist of men and women who have completed mandatory service and military exercises with the Defence Forces. The active service mainly recruits individuals who have completed mandatory service training. The largest active duty unit is the Scouts battalion.