The Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas, said that the country would be wiped off the map and the historic old town of the capital, Tallinn, would be razed to the ground under the current NATO plans to defend Estonia from any Russian attack.
According to the Financial Times, Kallas said NATO’s existing defence plans for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were to allow them to be overrun before liberating them after 180 days. “If you compare the sizes of Ukraine and the Baltic countries, it would mean the complete destruction of countries and our culture,” Kallas noted, according to the London-based newspaper.
“Those of you who have been to Tallinn and know our old town and the centuries of history that’s here and centuries of culture that’s here – that would all be wiped off the map, including our people, our nation.”
Kallas’s comments came ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain, on 28 June, where the alliance will discuss plans for the defence of its eastern flank in light of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, including how to better defend Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The three countries are pushing for the current strategy of having a thousand or so foreign troops in each country to act as a tripwire to be replaced by one in which NATO seeks to defend every inch of territory from the first day, especially after seeing Russian atrocities in Ukraine, the Financial Times said.
A changed perception of security
Estonian communication expert Raul Rebane also said Kallas’s comments were about the NATO summit. “The Ukraine war abruptly changed the perception of security, especially for the countries that are next to Russia,” Rebane told Delfi, an Estonian news portal.
“For those in Europe who are two-three countries apart from [the Russian dictator, Vladimir] Putin, the learning curve will take longer and they perceive our worry slower.”
The secretary general of the Estonian defence ministry, Kusti Salm, recently said Russia was conducting simulated missile attacks against Estonia. He told the Finnish tabloid, Iltalehti, that Russia didn’t think Estonia was worthy of independence.
“Their latest operations and strategic communication assure this conclusion,” he said, adding, however, that it was still safe to live in Estonia.
A reserve officer of the Estonian Defence Forces and a communication expert, Simmo Saar, wrote in an op-ed in Eesti Päevaleht, an Estonian daily, that NATO’s defence plans are based on the entire alliance and presume a member state has the capability to defend itself against the first strike.
Take Finland and Israel as role models
“We haven’t really wanted to think about the latter – the Estonian Defence Forces are seen as a NATO unit whose firepower the allies will come to strengthen at the moment of need. And they will come, but for the one who waits, time always has a different value than for the one who we’re waiting for,” Saar said.
He suggests Estonia should acquire weapons system that the country could deploy quickly, that are effective and trustworthy and that can be acquired in large amounts.
“For example, together with expensive K9 self-propelled howitzers, we could acquire 155mm howitzers that are attached to truck platforms. It’s a solution that is cheaper than self-propelled howitzers, guarantees good mobility and is as accurate and deadly as a self-propelled howitzer when engaged,” Saar wrote.
He also pointed out that Estonia needed to realize that the narrative, “Estonia is defended better than ever before”, there’s also the fact that the country is facing the biggest threat it has in the past 30 years. “Hopefully we understand that, when engaging in a discussion with the NATO allies, we need to show that we’re not expecting a comfort service, but emergency help for our defences that are as strong as possible.”
“So, we can place our hopes in NATO, but we should take Finland and Israel as role models: in such a neighbourhood, being armed to the teeth and using creative solutions is as inevitable as wearing a scarf and gloves in the winter. Presuming you want to stay alive and well.”