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Former army chief says Terras an IRL puppet; Minister hits back

Estonian soldiers
Estonian soldiers Source: Photo: Pärnu Postimees / Scanpix

Former Commander-in-Chief of Estonian Defense Forces, Ants Laaneots, who recently joined the Reform Party with an eye on a parliamentary seat, said on Thursday that the 10-year defense development plan, which is in his opinion deeply flawed, was pushed through by IRL party.

“I have a whole presentation on the mistakes made there [in the 10-year plan]. But the stubborn youngsters pushed it through. [Defense Forces Commander in Chief Maj. Gen. Riho] Terras also backed it as he is to a degree a puppet there and that is how the calamity happened,” Laaneots, who was in charge of the Defense Forces from 2006-2011, said at a defense panel discussion on Thursday, organized by the Reform Party, Eesti Päevaleht reported.

Defense Minister Sven Mikser (Social Democrat) told to Delfi that the attempt to undermine the authority of the head of the Defense Forces is unfitting for a retired general. He said the development plan is an excellent plan and if Laaneots is building his election campaign around criticism of it, he should be reminded that at the time of the preparation for long-term defense strategy, he was an adviser to the Prime Minister Andrus Ansip.

The recent defense development plan was unveiled less than two years ago, and received a green light from the IRL-Reform Party government. The plan was degraded due to the financial crisis, with tanks, more helicopters and medium-range air defense systems cut.

IRL Chairman Urmas Reinsalu, defense minister from 2012-2013, said that undermining national defense strategy should not have a place in politics, and the Reform Party just wants to "make noise".

Laaneots later said his words were aimed at the development plan, not at Terras.

The main focus of Laaneots's criticism is aimed at who is in charge of organizing territorial defense. The 22,000-strong voluntary Defense League will take over the duty, in times of war, from the Defense Forces.

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