War in Ukraine speeds up defense plans

Meinhard Pulk
, ajakirjanik
The package is focused on short-range air defense, tank defense, high beam, situational awareness and increasing the structure of the Defense League.
The package is focused on short-range air defense, tank defense, high beam, situational awareness and increasing the structure of the Defense League. Photo: Mihkel Maripuu

Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet (Reform Party) yesterday submitted to Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) a package of recommendations for strengthening the military defense of the country. It is desirable that all procurements be completed within two years in case the money would be allocated.

Some Reform Party members stated only yesterday that additional allocations for national defense would be discussed in the autumn after learning the necessary lessons from the war in Ukraine and reaching appropriate conclusions. Other parties in the parliament supported an immediate additional budget and making national defense loan.

Defense Forces Commander Lieutenant General Martin Herem wrote in a social media posting published in Sunday (March 13) that the Estonian army currently experiences shortage of several weapons and completely lacks some others. He recommended that the using of the first installment of additional funding could be roughly divided in batches of 100 million euros. Allocating one billion euros would allow starting all processes at once, he estimated.

Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet told Postimees yesterday that the army and its commander Herem had been tasked with drafting a package of recommendations, based on lessons learned from the war in Ukraine, concerning Estonia’s withstanding a Russian aggression in the near future. The package has now been completed and an application for funding has been submitted to the premier.

Short-range air defense, anti-tank weapons…

Two aspects served as the basis of the package: lessons learned from the war in Ukraine and the shortcomings of Estonia’s current defense capability. Time was another factor – the capabilities should be developed and the procurements completed within two years at the latest.

Besides the lessons of the war and the at most two-year supply time, the developments will also have to consider the fact that Estonia’s defense is a part of NATO plans and that we shall fight together with our allies.

“The Defense Forces commander and his team addressed the issues accordingly, analyzed them and what he posted on Facebook is presently one of visions of the Defense Forces.”

The recommended package of capabilities improvement is oriented at close-range air defense, anti-tank weapons, long-range strike capability, situational awareness and increasing the structure of the Defense League.

What would they expect to achieve with the package within two years? Laanet listed the following visions of development: the brigades could destroy more enemies that today, crushing the first echelon of the enemy would be easier by at least one third and the enemy units entering Estonia’s territory would come constantly under very dangerous fire; we would be more capable to destroy and demoralize the enemy in nighttime; carrying out airborne and maritime landing operations would be possible but with catastrophic casualties to the enemy; the enemy’s second echelon, management of infrastructure, fire support and rear areas would be threatened in a range of 50–90 kilometers; the most important factor would be the will to resist in wartime and improved capability to involve volunteers in Estonia’s military defense.

Although the application includes a time and estimations limit, the Ministry of Defense was unwilling to reveal the specific sum it hoped to receive. This would be premature; the amount the government would be willing to allocate is not yet known and it is yet unclear which capabilities could be obtained within two years.

The amount will be secret

It was emphasized that the defense sphere is not the only one seeking for extra funding; for example cyber-defense, which does not belong to the Ministry of Defense domain, has also submitted requests for additional money.

Jaak Aab (Center), Minister of Public Administration told Postimees that he was not yet informed of the application and added that he would learn about it at the Tuesday’s government sitting.

Minister of Finance Keit Pentus-Rosimannus (Reform) admitted that the additional budget is one option for meeting the expenses coming up immediately this year. “The government will listen to the advice of the military regarding the necessary and possible amount,” she said.

The minister added that everything possible must be done to strengthen national security. “This concerns our own domestic contribution and the contribution of our allies. We are now speeding up all opportunities. The government has spent these last weeks in very intensive negotiations to determine all details of allied presence. All these decisions work as a whole.”

Additional budget is one option

Comment by Minister of Finance Keit Pentus-Rosimannus

Everything necessary must be done to strengthen Estonia’s national security. The additional budget is certainly one option for covering the extra expenses to be made immediately this year. Regarding the necessary and possible amounts, we shall first of all listen to the advice of the military. In January, before Putin unlashed this war, the Estonian government decided, according to the advice of the military, to invest an additional 380 million euros for improving the level of military preparedness. This decision is already being realized. We are purchasing equipment, ammunition, including the Javelin missiles, which have proved themselves in Ukraine as a highly efficient capability.

There is presently no military threat to Estonia but Putin has brought war to Europe, which inevitably requires additional strengthening of military defense on our side. Estonia’s defense spending will pass the 2.3 percent of GDP mark this year, but the need for rapid increase of military capabilities will probably see 2.5 percent in the following years.

In these times we cannot afford to miss any decision so that we would not have to admit with hindsight the failure to take some necessary steps.