Defense Officials Making Push for More Muscular US Presence ({{commentsTotal}})

Without detracting from the commitments pledged by NATO so far, Estonian defense officials have come on the record several times recently saying the country needs a more substantial US military mission.

Coming on the heels of Defense Minister Urmas Reinsalu's visit to Washington at the start of this week, Leo Kunnas, a lieutenant colonel in the reserves, said in Postimees that Estonia is not up to scratch when it comes to armored maneuvering units, mine-laying and medium-range air defenses.

"The other question is of course, Baltic air defense. It's clear that NATO's collective air defense in Lithuania will not cover Estonia: their fighters will not reach us in time," said Kunnas.

Kunnas said the solution would be a NATO Baltic air defense mission, with four fighters ready to be scrambled in each Baltic state.

Kunnas stopped short of saying there should be American bases or ground units stationed in the country, though, a contentious area even for Estonian military personnel.

Former commander in chief Ants Laaneots has said deploying US forces in Estonia would inflame tensions with Russia and be counterproductive.

"The maximum we could want is for US units to have stockpiles in the Baltics as was done in Norway, Germany and other places during the Cold War," said Laaneots in comments for the same Postimees report.

One of the bigger takeaway messages from Reinsalu was that he would support seeing a permanent US military presence in Estonia. He was criticized by some in his party for making the statements publicly.