Defense minister: Horror stories of defense budget cuts not true

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Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet on "Esimene stuudio". Source: ERR

Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet (Reform) said that tales of the government planning to make cuts to the national defense budget are not true and defense spending is instead set to increase in the near future.

Laanet told ETV's political interview show "Esimene stuudio" on Tuesday that even in a situation where the current government received the state's finances in poor condition, there is room to increase resources for national defense.

"The Ministry of Defense will receive more money from the state budget next year than this ongoing year and will receive more money the year after than the next year. And throughout this state budget strategy period. Next year, the GDP is higher than this year. The horror tales that have been spread are not true," Laanet told show host Andres Kuusk.

The minister assessed that potential defense expenses written into the budget strategy by the previous government belong to a fantasy world and not reality, which is why there needs to be steps taken back from the plans.

"We cannot speak of specific numbers today, hopefully the government will approve the budget strategy on Thursday. The numbers can go higher, can go lower," Laanet noted.

He said making cuts has to come with equal solidarity for all sectors and taking money from other areas does not give the defense ministry better defense capabilities. "If we look at national defense, one of the most important pillars is comprehensive national defense. Other sectors must also contribute. If we add €100 million to the defense budget, but we take it from the social or interior security sector, it will not help protect Estonia," Laanet said.

The defense minister noted that all neighboring countries of Estonia are looking at their defense budgets during the coronavirus crisis. "They are also looking at their expenses because budgets are in deficits and it cannot continue that way," he said.

Laanet confirmed that the coalition agreement will stand as written in the budgetary strategy and that defense expenses will not be cut over the next year.

"I can boldly state that it has been written in the coalition agreement that the lowest level of Estonian national defense is 2 percent of the GDP. In addition, the defense investment program, the allied forces' reception obligations. All is exactly how it is stated in the coalition agreement," he confirmed.

The Estonian national defense development plan is also set to be confirmed this year, valid up to 2030. Laanet said it is realistic that all described visions and capabilities in the plan will be achieved during the decade.

"We have not confirmed the 2030 development plan yet. It will be, I hope, bound in the fall. I believe the capabilities we hope to achieve by 2030 will be achieve," the defense minister said.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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