Estonia was a member of the world’s mightiest military alliance, thanks to the fact that it had always wanted and known how to defend itself, the commander of the Estonian Defence Forces, Gen. Riho Terras, said in his address on the occasion of this year’s Independence Day parade.
“We are strong today because Estonia is a member of the world’s mightiest military alliance. No country has managed to call into question the effectiveness of NATO’s deterrence. This power was created to protect our members from any kind of military threat. This power is present in Estonia. Estonia is a part of this power,” Terras said.
According to Terras, the deployment of allied forces on the territory of NATO member states is normal and customary practice. “Like in Estonia, U.S. troops are present at military bases of more than half of NATO’s member states. These troops are involved in training and defense cooperation. The goal is to improve the efficiency of communication between allies, and to ensure better protection of NATO,” the general said.
Terras pointed out that in spring, the town of Tapa would welcome more than a thousand new inhabitants, whose daily work and service would be associated with NATO’s increased presence on the eastern flank of the alliance. The lead nation of this battle group would be the United Kingdom, with French and Danish troops serving side by side with Estonia’s British friends.
“For the Estonian Defence Forces, it is almost like a reunion with our brothers in arms. We served with the British in the difficult conditions of Afghanistan. Together with the French, we were the first to respond to the outburst of religious violence in the Central African Republic. The Danes served with us, shoulder to shoulder, in Bosnia and Kosovo,” Terras said.
“Our wish is to make our allies feel welcome in Estonia,” he continued. “For this, the Estonian state has made the necessary preparations. We have built new barracks and extended our training grounds. But the most important part is for the Estonian people to accept our allies. This is the best way to together move closer to the ultimate objective of Estonia’s presence in NATO, and NATO’s presence in Estonia. This objective ensures better protection for us.”
Collective defense and independent defense capability were two equally important pillars of Estonia’s national defense, Terras said further. The state had been consistent in its choices, with the development of the defense forces remaining in the public focus for many years. “We cannot afford to look idly to the horizon, hands at our sides, waiting for help from the West. Protection is afforded to those who want to and can protect themselves,” he said.
Speaking about future plans, Terras said that the development of Estonia’s national defense in the coming years would require the involvement of a larger number of conscripts to bolster the reserve forces. “We have tested the preparedness and skills of our reservists in large exercises and flash drills. We have seen a real and considerable desire and willingness in the Estonian people to defend our country,” he observed.
In order to train more conscripts, the defense forces needed to be prepared for a closer dialogue with all of Estonian society, Terras said. “The Estonian Defence Forces would like to see that our young people are healthy and active. That they perceive military service as an opportunity to gain new knowledge and skills. Our reserve forces are based on such knowledge and skills. They help keeping our independent defense capability continually up to date,” he added.
“If we want to be able to protect Estonia in the future, we need to increase our numbers. Today, the survival and growth of Estonian people is a crucial challenge. For the members of the defense forces, this issue has a very practical dimension: Who are we protecting, and who are we doing it with? I’m very glad that we have many families where military service, reserve drills, or exercises of the Defense League are a natural choice. There are large families that have raised quite a few defenders of the country,” Terras said.
Five companies, four batteries, 22 platoons and three orchestras took part in the parade — altogether more than 1,000 personnel and more than 100 pieces of equipment. The three orchestras were the Orchestra of the Estonian Defence Forces, the Orchestra of the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board, and the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Band.
All branches of the EDF were represented, including the 1st and 2nd Infantry Brigades, the Estonian National Defence College, the Baltic Defence College as well as cadets of the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences.
First-time participants included the Scouts Battalion with its CV9035 infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), the Viru Infantry Battalion with Sisu XA-188 armored personnel carriers, the Women’s Defence League (Naiskodukaitse), and the Reconnaissance Company of the 1st Infantry Brigade.
A platoon-sized unit of U.S. soldiers currently stationed in Estonia also participated, together with two Bradley IFVs and two M1A2 Abrams tanks, a platoon-sized British unit, and color guards from Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Denmark.
Editor's comment: We would like to show our readers the whole gallery of images of the parade. Unfortunately, as it is often the case with brand new systems, ERR News' back-end does not currently allow for galleries. We hope the problem can be dealt with soon, but as it is Independence Day, this might take some time. We will post the full gallery as soon as we can.
Editor: Dario Cavegn
Source: BNS, ERR