Less than half of Estonians support raising the defence spending

The results of the annual public opinion survey, commissioned by the Estonian defence ministry, show that less than half of the nation, 43% of people, support raising Estonia’s defence spending – but 83% of people support armed resistance in the event of aggression by another state; almost half of the Russian-speaking population is also willing to participate in Estonia’s defence.

The defence ministry appeared to put a positive spin on the survey results, saying in a statement that the rise in defence spending enjoys a “high level of support”.

“According to the National Security Concept of Estonia, it has been agreed that the Estonian defence spending will be at least three per cent of the gross domestic product. That percentage enjoys a high level of support among Estonian residents – 43% support raising defence spending, while a third supports keeping the current level,” the ministry’s permanent secretary, Kusti Salm, said in a statement.

Altogether, 82% of Estonian residents support Estonia’s membership in NATO (80% in 2022), while 80% support the presence of NATO allied forces in Estonia (76% in 2022). But just 29% of the respondents believe that NATO membership rules out military conflict and less than half (48%) believe that in case of conflict NATO will provide direct military assistance.

A German fighter jet, part of the NATO deployment, at Ämari Air Base in Estonia. Photo by the Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association.

The number of people who support armed resistance in the event of aggression by another state has grown in the year following the Russian attack on Ukraine – 83% of people in Estonia support armed resistance in the event of aggression by another state, and nearly two thirds of the population is ready to participate in defence in the event of an attack.

Support for conscription also remains high, with nearly 90% of respondents saying it is necessary. For the first time, support for mandatory national defence education (46% of respondents) exceeds that for voluntary national defence education (41%).

Russian speakers, too, support defending Estonia

Conducted in the spring of 2023 among 1,200 respondents, the survey results show that over the last year, support among the Russian-speaking population in Estonia to armed resistance against an attack on Estonia has also grown (from 61% to 71%), as has readiness to participate in defence (from 44% to 48%) and support for conscription among young men (from 67% to 74%).

A group of Estonian soldiers at the Siil 2018 exercise. Photo by the Estonian Defence Forces.

As the survey reveals, 69% of the respondents are satisfied with the development of national defence. 

Among the greatest threats to Estonian security, respondents pointed out spreading fake news (84%), cyberattacks against national systems, institutions, businesses or citizens (83%), and malign foreign interference in Estonian politics or economy (61%).

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