Outgoing defense minister: Reserve army model justified for Estonia

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Jüri Luik on ETV's "Välisilm". Source: ERR

Outgoing Minister of Defense Jüri Luik (Isamaa) said in an interview to ETV's foreign affairs show "Välisilm" that the reserve army model has justified itself completely in Estonia.

I would like to start off by noting that this interview is your swan song as defense minister, but I will immediately take it back as I know you have previously been foreign minister, defense minister and then defense minister again. You are leaving now, but you will likely make a return, perhaps in Kadriorg?

I do not have anything to say about that. It is a very unexpected note. I do not believe it.

When Reform Party held the defense minister portfolio in 2005-2007, defense minister Jürgen Ligi was fighting strongly for a transition to a professional army. And it was in Reform's programme for 2010. Now the defense portfolio goes back to Reform. Has that argument passed or will a paid army be back on the table?

I do not think so. I believe that fight is fought and we have clearly shown the many possibilities of a reserve army. We have done many trainings lately, where one or maybe even two battalions are gathered in a day. Many nations with a reserve army do not even dare do so, because they fear not enough men will come together. We do not have that problem, a unit gathers, they are trained, armed and ready to go. The reserve army model has justified itself 100 percent and over the last three and a half years, I have done all I can to confirm that a reserve army can also be a professional army.

The new coalition agreement states that defense spending will make up at least 2 percent of the GDP, just as Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Gen. Maj. Martin Herem has said earlier. In actuality, if Estonia were to stand up against Russia in wartime, the spending should make up 6.5 percent of the GDP. Will funding for EDF and defense remain with the new coalition?

I hope so. Luckily consensus has ruled in matters of defense and I have again done all I can to maintain that consensus. National defense is a field, where fighting is most dangerous.

There was fighting in your government between EKRE and Isamaa.

There were a few specific topics. One was defense spending, but we finally reached a point where defense spending would remain and would not be bothered by the so-called corona recession. On the other hand, we are even capable of acquiring modern solutions, longrange rockets with a range of 200 km, just as Gen. Maj. Herem pointed out.

That 6.8 percent is real if we had to defend our country by all war rules alone. Luckily we are a part of NATO, there are NATO allies here and which has been always important to me, especially over the last years - large-scale exercises, where we train how our allies can help out. It is clear that the one British battalion in Estonia is more for deterrence and warning, although they are very capable. But the so-called cavalry will arrive when they are needed and we have trained for that repeatedly over the last years.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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