The recession's effect on the Estonian GDP will also manifest in defense spending. Chairman of the Riigikogu National Defense Committee Andres Metsoja (Isamaa) fears that funding other areas at the expense of national defense could become permanent.
Estonia's defense spending is set to take a hit as the economy contracts, with budget cuts a likely necessity. In order to retain the recent level of spending, politicians should be ready to pledge over 2 percent of GDP.
However, the government also has other plans as there is talk of an extraordinary pensions hike. Andres Metsoja fears that Minister of Finance Martin Helme's (EKRE) hint of cutbacks could impact the Estonian Defense Forces' capability.
"It is very dangerous even if one-off cuts might be simple. To say that there is nothing we can do because the economy is ailing. Let us dial it back by €50 million a year. And then the next year and the one after that. However, it will prove very difficult to find that money again, meaning that our proposal is to retain the current level of spending in absolute terms, which would be around 2.16 percent of GDP," Metsoja said.
Isamaa has voiced criticism of the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) in recent days, suggesting the party is backing away from its election promise of maintaining an above 2 percent of GDP defense spending.
EKRE's national defense expert Leo Kunnas emphasized that it is time to search for saving in the field of national defense. We could shed our stake in the Globemaster transport aircraft procurement as there are no international missions underway as well as find ways to make daily activities more effective. At the same time, we should consider major defense investments.
"We could make extraordinary defense investments to fill gaps in our military capability. I had a brief conversation about it with the finance minister this morning, while the government has also discussed the matter. We are talking about a ballpark figure of €300 million that could be used to obtain medium-range anti-aircraft capacity and coastal defense missiles," Kunnas said.
Experts say that the security situation has not improved. Several countries, such as Norway, have unveiled more ambitious national defense plans and moved up investments. Finland is set to boost its defense budget by €1.7 billion next year. It seems that Estonia needs to make more of an effort to keep up.
"Talking about potential defense spending cuts, it matters how it would affect our credibility and what kind of signal it would send to our allies," Martin Hurt, research fellow at the International Center for Defence and Security (ICDS), said.
Editor: Marcus Turovski