EDF commander: 6 percent of GDP on defense would fend off Russia attack

EDF commander Maj. Gen. Martin Herem.
EDF commander Maj. Gen. Martin Herem. Source: ERR

Defense spending would need to be raised to 6.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product, Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) commander Major General Martin Herem says, if the country were to be able to withstand any attack from its eastern neighbor for any length of time.

This increase, from the current, NATO-set level of 2 percent, is unlikely to be forthcoming, however, Maj. Gen. Herem told ERR radio show "Uudis+".

The incoming coalition of the Reform and Center parties should make no major amendments to the recently-approved national defense development plan, Maj. Gen. Herem said, adding that governments generally do not do this regardless of their makeup, since politicians of all hues read from the same page with regard to Estonia's defense requirements.

Long-range artillery, medium-range air defense, coastal defenses, and as many as six new brigades would be needed to be added to the existing two regular EDF brigades, Maj. Gen. Herem said, with reference to the scenario of an attack from the Russian Federation, and mobilization would need to be within days.

As things stand, maintaining readiness and quality of current units, their armor and transport, as well as communications and surveillance, are necessary – vehicle maintenance alone costs around €30-million per annum, he added.

EDF mainly deterrence role

Regardless, the EDF's main function remains deterrence, he said, to the extent that an attack on Estonia would be considered unacceptably costly.

The eastern neighbor remains the major threat, he added, as evidenced by the 2008 invasion of Georgia and the ongoing insurgency war in eastern Ukraine which started in 2014 and given the disparity between Russia's military capacity and those of its western neighbors.

The 2017-2026 defense plan is still valid, Maj. Gen. Herem continued, with the newly-unveiled plan covering 2021-2030 requiring sub-plans of four-year periods, where finance, budget and government input can be fine-tuned.

Those goals already achieved or being achieved are two fully battle-ready infantry brigades – with the 1st Brigade already complete and the 2nd to be so in the next couple of years, Maj. Gen. Herem went on.

Conscripts getting training in latest equipment

The Air Force (Õhuvägi) and Navy (Merevägi), organizationally a part of the EDF and not separate services, must continue in developing maritime surveillance capabilities, air defensive cover and mine-hunting capacity.

Six Korean-built K9 self-propelled guns will be in training use with conscripts from summer, with Eurospike anti-tank/personnel missile training also on the table.

Estonian special forces are already fully prepared, he added.

Overall, the past four years has seen good progress in increased combat readiness for the EDF as a whole, he said.

The national defense development plan is due to be approved by the government in March or April, ERR reports.

The incoming defense minister from the new coalition has yet to be announced.

Lead negotiators from the Reform Party (Kaja Kallas) and Center (Mailis Reps) confirmed earlier this week that defense remains a priority.

The EDF's regular strength is bolstered by its reserve, comprising lists of those who have served as regulars or conscripts in recent years. The volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit) further augments this, an includes cyber warfare in its domain, as well as having women's (Naiskodukaitse), girls' (Kodutütred) and boys' (Noored Kotkad) affliated organizations.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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