Sa, 2.12.2023

Additional €380 million allocated for national defense

Okas 2021 reserve training exercise from November.
Okas 2021 reserve training exercise from November. Photo: Marianne Loorents/Virumaa Teataja

Estonia is planning to allocate an extra €380 million for defense, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said in a political statement delivered to the Riigikogu on Wednesday. The money will be distributed between four ministries in 2022-2025.

The 2022 national defense budget is €748 million or 2.31 percent of GDP. Additional sums are set to boost defense spending further.

Postimees’ information suggests that €339 million will go to military national defense of which around €300 million will be spent on munitions. The sums cover more than simply moving up investments included in the 2022-2031 national defense budget. Intelligence will also be allocated considerable additional funding.

Wednesday also brought news that the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) and the Defense League will procure over €40 million worth of disposable anti-tank weapons, with the first deliveries expected this year. The investment is not part of the €380 million additional funding package.

Border guard development

Roughly €30 million will be made available to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the emphasis mainly on guarding the border and corresponding surveillance equipment. Evacuation capacity and general civil defense will also be ramped up.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will receive a part of the money for more secure diplomatic communication and information security. The national defense development plan prescribes increasing the security of diplomatic buildings by 100 percent by the decade’s end.

The Ministry of Culture will distribute a few million euros to public broadcaster ERR and digital services provider Levira for more effective public crisis communication.

Kallas said on Wednesday that the decision has the approval of the government partners and needs to be formally approved.

Even though the PM repeatedly said she cannot discuss all aspects of the funding package, Kallas admitted that a part of it will go toward salary expenses. She described the package as necessary in terms of the ability to react more quickly and effectively to military and hybrid threats.

“We will be boosting the Estonian Defense Forces’ ability to rapidly respond and spending a considerable part of additional funds on stockpiles, including vital munitions,” the PM explained.

Kallas said that Russia has been massing troops on the Ukrainian border to the tune of extraordinarily aggressive rhetoric and threats for some time. “Next to threatening Ukraine, Russia has aimed its belligerent demands right at us,” she said.

The premiere added that Moscow presented NATO and USA with a set of ultimatum-like demands late last year aimed at dividing Europe into spheres of influence and dismantling the European security architecture in place since the end of the Cold War. “Russia’s goal is to restore its political and military influence over its neighbors,” Kallas said.

She stressed that Russian demands as concern the foundations of European security will not be facilitated.

Threat of war remains minute

The prime minister said that there are no signs to suggest Russia plans to ease tensions. “Considering Estonia’s geographic location and the fact the demands partly concern us, I would shed light on four areas where the government plans to take action,” Kallas said, adding that there is no direct military threat against Estonia.

EDF Commander Lt. Gen. Martin Herem also regards direct military threat as minute for the time being but said on the “Otse Postimehest” webcast that a potential conflict between Russia and Estonia would see the former hit military warehouses and bases first. Secondary targets would include infrastructure used to move in allied troops. “And only then, right at the back of their list of priorities would come things that affect the civilian population, which I regard highly unlikely as it is not something Russia needs,” Herem said.

The PM said that Estonia wants to reinforce defense and deterrence on the eastern flank, which also means having more allied troops present.

“We need to be concerned, while we do not have to be afraid. There is currently no direct military threat to Estonian security,” Kallas said, adding that people should keep calm and download the “Ole valmis” crisis preparation application.