Former Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Commander and current MEP Riho Terras (Isamaa) said politicians should listen to the opinion of (EDF) leadership when making national defense plans, and that borrowing for national defense is not necessarily a bad idea. Terras made his remarks in the light of finance minister Martin Helme's plan to borrow to invest in air defense and coastal defense systems.
Terras told ETV politics interview show "Esimene stuudio" on Thursday that: "There has been debate lately about taking a loan for national defense and I think a national defense loan would not be a completely unthinkable act."
Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE) has recently expressed desire to take out a loan for defense spending, investing most into coastal and air defense, leading to members of coalition partner Isamaa to raise concern over the coming state budget.
Terras said he agrees with Helme: "If you're asking me, then yes, we should borrow. For what, first of all? I cannot argue with experts who say coastal defenses are a necessity. I think a long-distance missile - capable of use on land and sea- is necessary, and it would intimidate any who dare approach. Long-range missiles, possibly multipurpose, are always worth the investment; it is always the right thing."
Terras said it is not all that unusual that a finance minister would get involved in national defense talks, in regards to state budget planning.
He said: "I think this debate is normal, it has always been. There is no budget discussion where parties do not argue and try to find the strongest position. If this quarrel leads to more funding for national defense, that is awesome."
The former EDF head assesses that defense spending could do with more funding either way.
Terras said: "To me, in today's security environment where all things collapse, where we have rifts within unions and outside pressure, Estonia should seriously consider raising the budget higher than 2 percent of GDP, to 3 percent for example. At the same time, I think Mailis Reps (Minister of Education and Research - ed.) wants more funding for science, teachers want higher wages too."
Terras said politicians should listen to the commander of the EDF (Martin Herem - ed.) above all else when it comes to defense spending. "All ideas and opinions these politicians hold are legitimate, ones think one way, others the other way. In my assessment, it is very important to listen to the EDF commander. I am convinced that Maj. Gen. Herem will not state a politically biased opinion, but the one he considers right and he has always shown that. And his opinion should be heard. Whether it is followed is a political question."
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) confirmed on September 17 that the state budget plan will be presented to the Riigikogu by September 30, after which loan plans, among many things, will be debated and voted on.
The Minister of Defense, Jüri Luik, is in the same party as Terras - Isamaa - but recently said that Martin Helme should not be interfering in defense procurement issues.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste