Minister: Willingness to defend nation must be imbued from kindergarten age
The tense security situation and the lack of perception of the threat to the Baltic States presented by the Russian Federation means an awareness of the need to defend Estonia should be imbued in children from as early as kindergarten age, defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) says.
Appearing on ERR webcast "Otse uudistemajast" Wednesday, Laanet said: "The will to defend must be discussed at kindergarten," adding that the current geo-political climate is the most turbulent it has been in the past 30 years.
This early start should be augmented with classes on national defense being made a part of school curricula, Lannet went on, while a deeper understanding of conscription, the conducting of military exercises, and even greater involvement of the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit) were also "keywords" the minister listed in respect of Estonia's defensive preparedness.
While it has become clear over the past six months that the security situation may escalate quickly, it is key now to focus on discouraging the Russian Federation from going any further, Laanet, who marks his first anniversary as defense minister later this month, continued.
The planned increase in defense expenditure of €100 million in the 2022 state budget, which passed last December, is the highest in history, Laanet added.
He also would not rule out a national loan for defensive purposes, though didn't see that it was needed at this precise point in time.
"If the security situation requires it, it cannot be ruled out," Laanet said.
As to a recent proposal from one of Laanet's predecessors as defense minister, Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa), to commence Article 4 NATO consultations, meaning collective discussions between member states, Laanet said: "Consultations between the allies take place on a daily basis, in order to keep the alliance united," adding that the security situation is also constantly under discussion.
The Russian Federation's own demands that NATO not place troops or armaments in member states on its eastern flank, including Estonia, are, however, not being discussed, other than in the media, Laanet added.
Finland's decision to procure 64 new Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighter jets at around €120 million apiece – the largest defensive procurement in non-NATO member Finland's military history – could potentially also benefit Estonia's defensive capabilities, he added.
In summation, Laanet said that the consequences of any Russia attack on Ukraine must be made clear, with these consequences including the pressing-on with planned anti-tank, artillery and other weapon supply to Ukraine, as well as the provision of a field hospital, jointly with Germany, and with diplomatic support.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte