Prime minister: EDF, NATO troops met all and every challenge of past year
Estonia's military maintains its readiness and works well with its much-appreciated allies, in the teeth of challenges over the past year, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says.
Visiting Tapa base, home of the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup, on Wednesday, Kallas said that: "Any cracks in our preparedness would be noticed by our adversaries immediately."
"This is why the presence of allied units and the exercises that come with them are the best means for peacetime deterrence as well as for defense activities in a crisis situation. We are grateful to our allies for this close cooperation," the prime minister went on.
Kallas statements Wednesday came almost coincided with a visiting delegation from the Russian Federation who, exploiting provisions of a 2011 Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) agreement, also inspected facilities at Tapa, the EDF's central training ground and other locations, all while the annual large-scale Exercise Spring Storm was in progress in its third week.
Estonia's own defense and security is also in safe hands, the prime minister said, thanks to both the regular Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) and the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit).
"The EDF must always be prepared for the unexpected. Our defense personnel and Defense League members have been able to maintain this level of preparedness despite the complicated times," she went on, noting Estonian participation in foreign missions such as Mali.
Estonia is also to maintain the minimum defense spend of 2 percent of GDP required of all NATO member states.
Cuts to defense expenditure arising from the Reform/Center coalition's new state budget strategy have been the subject of intense scrutiny, while opposition party Isamaa has called for a no-confidence vote in Kalle Laanet (Reform) as defense minister.
Kallas met EDF top brass, including Lt. Gen. Martin Herem, and commander of the British-led eFP Battlegroup, Lt. Col. Dean Canham, while at Tapa, BNS reports, as well as getting to meet regular soldiers and conscripts and see some of the equipment in use at the base.
Danish and French personnel also contribute to the eFP's strength, on a rotational basis, and troops from Belgium have also made up its complement in the past.
The eFP is distinct from the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission, based at Ämari.
The coronavirus pandemic has done nothing to dent Estonia's defensive capability, the prime minister added, with the EDF and the Defense League already having contributed to managing the crisis since it arrived last March.
The armed forces are also ensuring coronavirus best practices, including vaccinations, are adhered to, the prime minister said.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte