Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Forces Brig. Gen. Riho Terras told ETV that the new 10-year defense development plan proposal will not diminish defense capabilities and that conscription will not be abolished.
Terras told ETV that Estonia has increased expenditure on defense in the last four years and will continue to do so in the next ten. “What led us to draft a new plan is the fact that Estonia’s laws require us to prepare a new plan every four years. The economic environment has also changed.” said Terras.
The 2007 plan was constructed on a platform of fast growing economic opportunities with no sign of a recession. As NATO has approved a new defense plan, Estonia will have to bring its plans in line.
Terras explained that the new plan to be presented on Tuesday to the National Defense Committee of Parliament will not lead Estonia to adopt an entirely professional army similarly to Latvia. “Absolutely to the contrary. We can’t draw any parallels with Latvia here. We are certain that an army based on conscripts is the only solution for Estonia. The number of (annual) conscripts has risen from 2,500 four years ago to 3,200 today. We plan to continue that trend.”
The Defense Forces will continue to train a reserve army of ex-conscripts and channel more resources to the volunteer Defense League. “Our defense principles remain the same as in the last few years because they have been justified. With three pillars: a reserve based on conscription, the Defense League and a strong but small professional unit for international missions,” said Terras.
According to Terras, Estonia cannot be compared to Finland or other countries with declining defense budgets. “Our defense (expenditure) has grown and will grow again in the next years, which means that the realistic defense capabilities of protecting Estonia will increase,” he added.
The defense forces will address the need of improved housing for conscripts and will try to improve quick reaction capabilities in the near future.
A member of the executive board of the International Center for Defense Studies in Tallinn, Martin Hurt, commented that the new plan has not yet been fully disclosed as it has not been voted on by the National Defense Committee in Parliament or by the Government. “On the whole, the changes mentioned by the Brigadier General Terras seem very reasonable. The recession hit us directly after the last development plan was confirmed. In that sense today’s plan is very logical and any different direction would not be possible.”
The new defense forces development plan was drafted by the Defense Forces in cooperation with the Ministry of Defense.