Facing Kremlin’s threats, the Estonian government on 20 January announced it will spend an additional €380 million on national defence “during the upcoming years”; the money is a significant boost to the country’s annual defence budget of about €650 million.
The government did not yet specify in detail what the additional funds will be spent on. Kaja Kallas, the country’s prime minister, said in a statement that Estonia “will boost the capabilities” of its defence forces to be “able to react rapidly” and allocate a “significant proportion” of the additional funding to ensure “sufficiency of supplies”, including essential ammunition.
“A significant amount will also be spent on non-military developments of national defence. Among other things, we will be augmenting the abilities under the area of governance of the interior ministry to detect and promptly respond to threats. We will be reinforcing the Border Guard and civil defence. We will also be improving the secure communication solutions used by the foreign service,” the prime minister noted.
Russia’s aim is to restore its influence over its neighbours
Commenting on Russia’s demands in reference to Ukraine and NATO’s presence in its Eastern and Central European member states, the Estonian prime minister said that “Russia’s aim is to restore its political and military influence over its neighbours” and there were no signs that Russia had any plans to ease tensions.
“Considering Estonia’s geographical location and the fact that the demands that have been made partly also apply to us, the [Estonian] government is approaching this issue on four fronts,” Kallas said.
“Firstly, we are working as before to ensure that NATO maintains the clear line it has adopted: we can pursue dialogue with Russia, but we will not go along with any agreement that negatively impacts Estonia’s security or undermines the collective defence offered by NATO. Secondly, we must support Ukraine in every way we can. Thirdly, the defence and deterrence position of NATO’s eastern flank must be reinforced at an even quicker pace. Our aim is for there to be more high-readiness forces as well as plans in place for their use which have been tried and tested in military exercises. We have no room for error in that regard,” the Estonian prime minister stated.
The Estonian government’s response comes as Russia has reportedly mobilised over 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border and the Russian president Vladimir Putin has tasked his diplomats with securing US and NATO agreement to his demands for a new security order in the Eastern and Central Europe.
Read also: Carl Bildt: Putin’s Ukraine Formula.
Cover: Soldiers of Estonian Defence Forces shooting a Javelin rocket at an exercise. Picture by Estonian Defence Forces.