Helme’s plan half-baked

Military police.

PHOTO: mil.ee

Even though Minister of the Interior Mart Helme says his coalition partners support his internal security reserve plan in theory, funds to realize the idea seemed nowhere in sight yesterday. Neither did answers to questions concerning the powers of the reservists, chain of command and amendments necessary to realize intentions.

The fact Helme decided to go public with his plan during one of the busiest weeks of state budget talks speaks to the minister’s priorities. Postimees’ information suggests money for Helme’s plan was not found during yesterday’s extraordinary cabinet sitting. Should this remain the case, Helme will have to find the €19.7 million needed from his own ministry, having previously promised to hike police and rescue salaries.

Former interior minister, Social Democratic Party MP Katri Raik said that such a reserve was never discussed during the short time she spent at the ministry.

“We never talked about such a separate reserve during the months I was minister,” Raik said.

Raik does not understand why these goals cannot be met using existing resources; for example, by providing the police with additional funding. “The arguments that have so far been presented have failed to convince me,” Raik said, referring to the ministry’s point that the internal security reserve is necessary to be prepared for events such as the Bronze Night riots in 2007.

Raik sees Helme’s plan as yet another attempt by Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) politicians to please their voters.

“To be perfectly honest, it falls into the same category as Martin Helme’s attempt to illegally fire police chief Elmar Vaher. No one believes Helme is so dumb as not to have realized that what he attempted was illegal. He simply made a move that pleased EKRE voters,” the former minister said.

There are those who see the internal security reserve plan as an attempt by EKRE to get something done quickly to compensate for the fact their military border guard election promise fell through.

Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Viola Murd said that the internal security reserve idea in hardly new – it was first put on the agenda in 2014. The plan presented to journalists yesterday has been in the works since the beginning of the year, with the initial request for funding made this spring.

Minister of the Interior Mart Helme explained the need for a reserve force through the 2017-2026 national defense development plan’s goal of boosting general preparedness for crises. “That is why we need to create an internal security reserve,” he said.

“A voter asked me last weekend in Narva how a party could be creating for itself an army to be stationed in the woods. The question shocked me, but it was a real concern for a Russian person,” Katri Raik said.

Helme, when presenting his plan to journalists yesterday, emphasized that he is not creating a private army but is working on a state project instead.

Whom would the reserve answer to? For example, in the case of mass unrest, the internal security reserve force would operate under the Police and Border Guard Board, in other words, the interior ministry.

“Just like an agency responsible for solving certain situations can apply for additional manpower today. And, of course, the internal affairs ministry, following the minister’s proposal. Next, the government would decide whether to deploy the reserve,” Viola Murd explained.

Because membership would require one to have completed military service, Murd said that a solution has been found for how to keep tabs on reservists carrying out orders during wartime and those belonging to the internal security reserve. “That is why we plan to hand administration over to the Defense Resources Board,” she said.

The board knew nothing about the interior ministry’s plans yesterday as these things have not been discussed yet.

There are other loose ends. For example, in terms of the skills of future members of the reserve, their powers when called in to contain mass unrest, but also who would command the force and organize reserve trainings.

Even though authors of the plan hope to find equipment similar to that of the border guard’s rapid response unit in the 2020 state budget and hold at least annual reserve trainings starting in 2021, the plan’s legal side, or amendments it would require, remains undiscussed.