Aktuaalne kaamera asks MPs what 'plan B' really means

Reform Party MP and former EDF commander Ants Laaneots
Reform Party MP and former EDF commander Ants Laaneots Source: Sander Koit/ERR

Following interior minister Mart Helme's (EKRE) remarks last week that Estonia needed a "plan B" as a possible alternative to NATO, remarks which he has subsequently softened, according to ERR, current affairs show Aktuaalne kaamera. Nädal polled three Riigikogu MPs, who are also defense experts and current or former soldiers, what their interpretation of "plan B" was.

Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) MP Leo Kunnas, who is also a reserve Lieutenant Colonel and former member of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) as well as member of the state defense commission said that what "plan B" may mean requires looking at what "plan A" is first.

"When it comes to Plan B, it should be clear what Plan A is. It is the Allies', and our, current plan in the Baltics and northeastern Europe. the total amount of nuclear deterrence which in itself could deter Russia," explained Kunnas, a member of the National Defense Commission.

Kunnas gave an example from several U.S. think tanks, whose authors claim that a balance of power is actually the guarantee of peace. This is "plan B".

"Plan B really should be for the allies, but especially for the three Baltic states including us, to achieve a real balance of power with Russian military forces in its western military district," Kunnas noted.

Kunnas listed three Russian armies, and one army corps, in towards "mainland" Russia and in the Kaliningrad exclave, quoting the Jamestown Foundation's suggestion that the U.S. should restore its military assistance in northeastern Europe.

"The same report very adequately assesses that the Baltic States are able to increase their wartime defense forces and close up the gaps demographically and organizationally. But they simply do not have the money. The economy cannot pay for it," Kunnas added.

For Kunnas, "plan B" is not a contingency plan in case NATO does not work, but rather the next step in cooperation with NATO. In addition to the allies, the Baltic States must increase their own strength and capabilities, Kunnas argues.

Reform MP and retired General Ants Laaneots is a former EDF commander and one of its founders, and a member of the Reform Party's national defense committee. He says he never received any "plan B" from interior minister Mart Helme.

"Maybe he was even right that we really need to increase our primart self-defense capability, as in 2013, our ''parquet generals'' (cf. "armchair generals"-ed.), as well as our youthful politicians, actually reduced the troops that I had brought in, from 42,000, to 25,000. In no case can this be countered," he added.

Laaneots said that NATO currently has defense plans for the region, but was not in a hurry to carry these out.

"They didn't want to do this even in the 1990s. The first time I went to Brussels [NATO] headquarters in 1992 was to say that we were going to become a NATO member, and that we wanted to become a member of the EU. Just listen to us - let the people talk. From this, NATO made defense plans for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania; [the impetus] was given by Russia's attack on Georgia (in 2008-ed.)," he added.

The military is guided by plans arising from military science. What the resources are, the situation with forces and considerations of topography.

It seems that both Kunnas and Laaneots consider it necessary to increase resources and forces. Topography is complicated for us.

Laaneots and Kunnas are not the only former soldiers sitting in the Riigikogu; 21 MPs are in the volunteer Defence League (Kaitseliit) and two are supporters.

Aktuaalne kaamera also asked Social Democratic Party (SDE) MP and Defence League member Lauri Läänemets for his views on what "plan B" might constitute.

"There are different plans within NATO. Perhaps Eastern European countries cooperate with each other, and want more NATO troops. The Baltic States do this, the Nordic countries discuss things with each other. But there is no such alternative to the strategy of collective defense," Läänemets said.

Personnel from NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup go on exercise with Defence League members, with Riho Ütegi, Defence League Commander, recently telling Aktuaalne kaamera that in the event of a crisis, it is most likely the Defence League who would receive allies at the [Estonian] border.

"I'm in the Defence League; in summer I was in training with Americans, English (sic) and French [troops]. I cannot imagine how it feels to those men here in Estonia [when hearing Helme's "plan B" remarks] or how it feels to Estonia when this form of [NATO] cooperation is called into question," Läänemets said.

The plans are good, but any struggle requires strength and courage. NATO has shown in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, that not all members want to get burned. Some lack will, others lack political readiness. Plans need to be made with those who have these things, Kunnas added. 

"As long as the U.S. and Britain and some important allies still have – in our case, Poland, for example - that political will. This, I believe they have, as well as the military power, so that deterrence will work in any case," Kunnas said.

The original Aktuaalne kaamera report (in Estonian) is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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