Defense minister: Defense budget should not be planned by finance minister
Minister of Defense Jüri Luik (Isamaa) said national defense spending plans should not be drawn up by improvising and by no means from the cabinet of Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE).
Luik said Isamaa's priority is to maintain the current level of defense spending for 2021. The minister said additional investments must be planned in accordance to the leadership of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) and sector experts.
He added: "I am glad that EKRE has backed from their initial position and now finds that national defense should not be decreased. At the same time, the finance minister (Martin Helme - ed.) should note that the planning for Estonian national defense must be done in cooperation with EDF leadership and other persons responsible for national defense. It can not be done by improvisation, by no means from the cabinet of the finance minister."
Luik said the capabilities of Estonian military have improved yearly. "It is the result of long-term planning and stable financing. The derogatory attitude of EKRE leaders toward EDF and the Defense League (Kaitseliit) will not gain them any honor."
The defense minister also commented on the appearance of Minister of Finance Martin Helme and Minister of the Interior Mart Helme on Tre Raadio's "Räägime asjast," where the two EKRE leaders discussed defense spending.
Martin Helme said they would be ready to increase the rate of defense spending of the GDP from the current 2 percent but only if the increase would be put into investments, daily Postimees wrote on Sunday (link in Estonian).
The finance minister said: "I am ready for it any time and there is a terrific chance currently - we will take a loan and fill gaps in national defense. Air defense, coastal defense's armored maneuverability: we're talking of €200-300 million and we would fill gaps."
The chairman of EKRE added: "I am sceptical of giving more money to the Ministry of Defense and capability gaps would not improve."
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.
Chairman of the Riigikogu National Defense Committee Andres Metsoja (Isamaa) has previously stated that he fears that funding other areas at the expense of national defense could become permanent.
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.
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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste