Commander of the Estonia Defense Forces (EDF) Lieutenant General Martin Herem says a decision to cut the forces' military orchestra would have less impact on capabilities than some other potential cuts.
Speaking to ERR Monday, Lt. Gen. Herem said that: "I would weigh it up against procuring ammunition, closing down some infantry battalions, or cutting all pay by a certain percentage," adding that cutting military development or even maintenance of current levels would be the worse option.
As reported by ERR News, the EDF's orchestra chief, Cpt. Simmu Vasar, sent a letter to all members last Friday, informing them that the orchestra will be laid off in full capacity starting September.
While the orchestra and also chaplain service will not continue in its current form, this need not mean that there will be no musical or pastoral functions at parades in future, Lt. Gen. Herem said.
The EDF has to make cuts of over €10 million, with the orchestra and chaplain spend cuts making up about a tenth of this, ERR reports.
Opposition MP Leo Kunnas (EKRE) said that the government's decision to make the defense spending cuts in general has put the EDF in an inescapable predicament.
"When management is given a figure and told to cut that percentage, there arise questions of the security situation, … there are some very serious issues; you can't cut everything by the same measurement," Kunnas said.
Coalition MP Jaanus Karilad (Center) also said that personnel dismissals were the wrong move.
Karilaid said: "If you take that step, you may have to review some investment projects, review economic activities, but not touch people during a health crisis. Such a hard and fast rule could come to be."
Lt. Gen. Herem said cuts were likely to be around 200 of the current, active 5,000 EDF personnel, but also in areas such as missions the EDF is involved in, and conscription numbers – in fact the latter would come more in not meeting the planned 4,000 conscripts by 2026, but retaining the current level of 3,500, per annum, he said.
Defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) backed Lt. Gen. Herem.
Laanet told ERR that: "I trust the EDF commander, and I believe that he will make the best, wisest decisions in a way that Estonia's military defense capability is not damaged, that the ongoing development process will continue, and that our country continues to be well protected."
Editor: Andrew Whyte