Defense spending in 2021 will rise to €645.4 million, constituting 2.29 percent of Gross Domestic Product, following the government's signing off on the 2021 state budget Tuesday. 2020's level was €615 million.
NATO membership requires a minimum 2 percent of GDP defense-spending level; the 2020 figure already exceeded this requirement.
Defense minister Jüri Luik (Isamaa) says that agreements reached at cabinet level on the state budget mean that the national defense plan can continue, including the development of new capabilities, including coastal defense.
"It is important for us that the new capabilities are based on the national defense development plan, including the defense forces' needs descriptions and the commander-in-chief's (i.e. Prime Minister Jüri Ratas – ed.) instructions," Luik said Tuesday.
"It is also key that we e continue to have the people, equipment, infrastructure, stockpiles of ammunition and money to maintain both new and existing capabilities," he went on.
The national defense development plan covers the period 2017-2026, and a long-range coastal defense system is also to be procured via separate, additional funding.
A subsection of the 2017-2026 period sees the 2021-2024 implementation of activities approved via the defense development plan continuing, including upgrading coastal defense armaments.
Finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE) had pursued a €300 million deal to obtain coastal defense systems and air defense systems, using borrowed money. While Jüri Luik said at the time that the finance ministry should stay out of defense ministry affairs, the coastal defense initiative remains in defense spending plans.
Other components of the main defense budget include procuring fragmentation and bullet-proof vests for Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) personnel, as well as boosting support for the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit), whose funds will rise to exceed €45.6 million by 2024.
An additional € 46 million will be added in 2022 to the National Defense Investment Program (KIP), which will remain at its current level throughout the period of the national budget strategy, at €20 million per year
Costs related to NATO allies are set at €10 million for 2021.
Luik said the state will strengthen its military capabilities via large-scale equipment purchases rather than personnel costs, which will not be increased in 2021, he said.
As reported by ERR News, Estonia's longer-term defense strategy includes a focus on making its main two infantry brigades fully-mechanized, and concentrating on artillery, including self-propelled guns, and air defense.
There is also scope for sea mine procurement within the KIP and national defense development plan.
Editor: Andrew Whyte