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Estonian Security Policy

Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) said 05 January 2023 "We all know that Russia's military capabilities have weakened, but their ability to attack Estonia in particular, for example, and to inflict a great deal of destruction on Estonia, remains great," he said. "Russia continues to mobilize people, Russia continues to produce more ammunition and other military equipment. And therefore, from our point of view, nothing has become easier. We have to take into account the fact that Russia continues to be the biggest threat to Estonia."

It would be the biggest mistake to underestimated Russia now. No matter how the war in Ukraine ends, Russia remains a threat. The Russian threat will not disappear if the country loses its war in Ukraine, but said it cannot automatically be concluded that Estonia will be in immediate danger. Russia would also be weakened domestically. It could be a very turbulent time, including international conflicts, anything is possible. On the other hand, Russia's economy and its military are weakening considerably. These are not the same assumptions that existed before February 24.

In her speech 23 June 2018 marking Victory Day (võidpüha) in Estonia, President Kersti Kaljulaid stressed that the country's readiness and responsiveness needn't be confined to the military sphere, but should extend into other areas, including medical services and vital infrastructure. "The military does not need to consider whether hospitals will be able to cope in the event of an exponential increase in number of patients, or how chaos can be avoided when vital services are disturbed," she said, speaking at the parade held at Tallinn's Song Festival Grounds.

Ms. Kaljulaid outlined a total of six broad areas of defence, of which military capability was but one. She noted that, whilst positive progress has been made in this broad-based approach to defence, more needed to be done than simply relying on innovations such as smart documents, volunteer initiatives and crisis-time innovations, which means more money needs to be spent. ''In this light, can we really be satisfied with a situation where, for every seventy three euros invested in the defence forces, the planned total investment in all the other areas combined amounts to just one euro?'' she asked. ''Perhaps we should increase that euro spending rather than reducing the seventy three [on defence spending],'' she suggested.

Outgoing Minister of Defense Urmas Reinsalu delivered a political address in Parliament on 19 March 2014 that was part State of the Defenses speech, half call to faster action. The main message was that security has now unquestionably become priority number one for Estonia and that Parliament and the Cabinet had to redouble efforts to increase military coordination and capability. "If the war in Georgia was an unpleasant wakeup call for most of the Western world, the developments in Ukraine are nothing if not a fire alarm. Or a geopolitical earthquake," he said. The mantra of "2 percent defense spending" - a level maintained by the Ansip government and pledged by heir apparent Taavi Rõivas - was not enough, he said. Reinsalu is regarded as one of the more hawkish members of the Cabinet and has taken flak for his persistent emphasis on vigilance and preparedness.

The purpose of the Estonian security policies is to ensure Estonia’s independence and freedom, territorial integrity, constitutional regime, and the security of the population. The security policies will involve spheres, which may all affect the sustainability of a state and nation. As provided by the Peace-Time National Defence Act, the basic plans for national defence are: Natioal Security Concept of Estonia, National Defence Strategy, Military Defence Development Plan, Military Defence Action Plan, and the Emergency Defence Plan.

The National Security Concept of Estonia establishes the objective, principles and directions of security policy. Submitted by the Government, the National Security Concept is subject to approval of the Riigikogu. The National Security Concept will be revised or amended depending on changes in the security environment and development of measures for ensuring Estonia’s security. The National Security Concept constitutes a framework document, forming the basis for the preparation of specific development and action plans.

The most important document that provides the foundation for the Estonian security politics is the National Security Concept of the Republic of Estonia (NSC). The NSC identifies the generalised goals, principles, and trends of security policies. Strategic documents, which specify the national efforts by spheres, all rely upon the NSC. For the purposes of defence policies, the document concerned is the National Defence Strategy.

The National Defence Strategy is based on the National Security Concept of the Republic of Estonia, which the parliament of Estonia approved in 2010. The National Defence Strategy is the basis for detailed defence planning. The government approved the National Defence Strategy at the end of 2010. According to the strategy, all major Estonian state authorities must participate in state defence. In addition to military defence, the strategy specifies the support of the civil sector in military defence, international activity, ensuring internal security, securing sustainable provision of vital services to the society, and psychological protection as the main lines of action of defence. The strategy is based on the principle that all authorities responsible for their respective domains during times of war must also be responsible for these domains during times of peace.

The National Defence Strategy is be drawn up on the bases of the strategic document for long-term and future-orientated planning of defence policies; the resulting document will identify the military capacities that are most important for protecting Estonia and planning the means for their development by ten year periods. Estonia’s defence policies are based on plausible deterring, which should convince possible compromisers of Estonia’s security that damages resulting from attacking Estonia will outweigh the possible benefits.

The Military Defence Development Plan determines the priorities for enhancing defence capabilities and the requirements for such capabilities, based on the National Military Strategy, as well as long-term development programmes for military national defence purposes and general resource restrictions for the development of the structure of the Defence Forces and the Defence League. The Military Defence Development Plan is established, based on a proposal of the Minister of Defence, by the Government of the Republic, for a period of ten years and is reviewed, based on a proposal of the Minister of Defence, every four years. Prior to submission of the Military Defence Development Plan to the Government of the Republic for approval, the Minister of Defence shall consider the view of the National Defence Committee of the Riigikogu. The Military Defence Development Plan was adopted in January 2009.

The Military Defence Action Plan sets out the measures for the implementation of the Military Defence Development Plan, considering the measures based on organisational expedience and ensured with resources that are in compliance with the requirements for development plans, as established under the State Budget Act. The Military Defence Action Plan is established by the Minister of Defence for a period of four years, and it will be reviewed every year.

The Emergency Defence Plan describes the performance of military national defence functions, utilising the available military capabilities, in accordance with the objectives established in the National Military Strategy. The Emergency Defence Plan shall be established by the Commander of the Defence Forces for a one year period, at the approval of the Minister of Defence.

An integrated approach to national defence represents one of the most important principles for the implementation of Estonian defence policies. According to the approach observed by the Riigikogu, the pooled efforts of whole state will be implemented to ensure Estonia’s security in the event of a military threat. Therefore, national defence has a scope that extends beyond military defence and which also involves international activities, civil sector support to military national defence, psychological defence, ensuring domestic security, and the consistence of vital services – regardless of the threat scenario.

Estonia as a NATO member state can enjoy the principles of collective defence, which means that aggression against any one of the member states shall be deemed as an aggression against the whole alliance. The European Union membership merges Estonia with the European economic and legislative space, Common European Foreign and Security Policy, and European Security and Defence Policy, which has increased the safety in the Baltic Sea region and throughout Europe.

Contributing to the solving of international crises serves Estonia’s interests. By participating in international military operations, Estonia will contribute both immediately and in general to the security of Europe and the world as whole. This is the reason why Estonia is actively taking part in international military operations.

As provided by the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, the general aim of national defence in Estonia is to maintain the independence of the state, territorial integrity, constitutional order and the safety of its population. Becoming prepared to face yesterday’s threats will not protect us against either today’s or tomorrow’s threats (international terrorism, spreading of weapons of mass destruction, cyber threats). After accession with NATO, several important changes in understandings and basic texts have been introduced and are shaping the vision of national defence in Estonia.

Aside from the Constitution, the Peace-Time National Defence Act is one of the most important documents that provides the bases for civil control and establishes the principles for the organisation of national defence. The Act has been designed to ensure the integrated and balanced organisation of national defence, based on the principles of a democratic state and on the rule of law.

Upon regaining its independence in 1991, Estonia began from scratch to develop its national defence systems and means. Today, Estonia has become an equal partner for NATO and EU states. For the Estonian Navy, mine countermeasures capability could be enhanced as the most important capabilities. The Army has contributed to the infantry capabilities; however, specific niche capabilities have also been developed (e.g., Explosive Ordnance Disposal units). Air surveillance is the priority of the Air Force. Contemporary and sustainable solutions are the key words for armament and equipment. The training and command system of the Defence Forces is updated consistently and Estonian soldiers are highly valued in international operations as professional and reliable combatants.

Estonia meets the national defence objectives, as established with the Acts and strategic documents, by participating actively in international security politics and co-operation, developing initial independent defence capabilities. For Estonia, NATO and European Union membership give rise for the necessity to participate in international peace support organisations/operations with its allies. Estonia also participates in rotations of the EU battle groups and the NATO response forces (NRF).

From 2009, an important amendment was introduced to Peace-Time National Defense Act, regulating the hierarchy and interrelations of more detailed defense plans (namely National Security Concept, National Military Strategy, Defense Development Plan, Development Action Plan, Emergency Defense Plan).

In January 2009, new Defense development plan for 2009-2018 was adopted. The defence planning foreseen by it is twofold – strengthening the initial self defence capability and contributing the international security might be separate fields by definition but yet inseparable and strongly interrelated tasks in practice. The new plan is to harmonise the national defence planning in Estonia with the NATO planning cycle and will be reviewed every four years.

The development plan focuses on a number of important spheres including the following: increasing the initial defence capability, participation in international operations, increasing host nation support, the re-organisation and development of the Defence League, and continued improvement of service quality. Estonia also wants to improve the efficiency of the recruitment system within the framework of the development plan while ensuring a continued increase of wages and motivations for defence force members.

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