Interior minister: Broad-based national defense in place

Kristian Jaani.
Kristian Jaani. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The focus of recent opinions has been on military national defense, and rightly so, while we must not forget other things that contribute to defense but are not of military nature.

Security and security threats have landed on the top of the agenda after recent events in Kazakhstan and the Russia-Ukraine border. Let us also not forget that the situation is still strained on the Belarusian border of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland where the Lukashenko regime has been orchestrating a hybrid attack using weaponized immigrants and aimed at legitimizing his dictatorial rule and dismantling EU unity since this summer.

Yes, the situation remains calm in Estonia, while that does not mean we should not prepare and further reinforce allied relations not just with talking points but through activity. Whether we are talking about mutual or multilateral relations or membership in international (defense) organizations.

The situation calming down in neighboring countries might be merely seeming and tied to cold weather or the focus temporarily shifting south. It is difficult to say for sure in what is a complicated and rapidly changing situation. It is clear that even though there is no direct threat against Estonia right now, security matters are acutely in focus in our region and the world.

The focus of recent opinions has been on military national defense, and rightly so, while we must not forget other things that contribute to defense but are not of military nature.

Our military defense needs to be practicable and deterrent. We can say that is the case today. We have planned for the future in having realistic development scenarios that can be found in our recently approved national defense development plan.

In short, it is crucial to develop defensive capacity, prevent and ward off threats to constitutional order and independence and, first and foremost, prevent events escalating to the level of military activity.

But what does it mean to avoid military activity and prevent corresponding escalation? This brings us to the concept of broad-based national defense. Put simply – primarily non-military activities where internal security is the focus but not the only aspect. Social, justice and economic factors, as well as foreign relations and strategic communication are also important. Military national defense is necessary once these aspects fail. I can assure the reader that our capacity to prevent war is strong, while we can always do better and create certainty of being able to handle simultaneous crises. Stable funding of non-military national defense capacity is key. I would emphasize stability as the aspect has proved its merit in development of military national defense. It is the way.

There are several countries where defense expenses also include the budget of guarding the border. National security starts on the border that must hold. A well-guarded border is a guarantee of security. I'm glad to report that our border development is coming along at a brisk pace and the government has decided to allocate additional resources for border construction.

Another important security guarantee is civilian-military cooperation. Tangible progress has been made in the form of the temporary border fence installed during a recent reserve training exercise. It has been agreed that the Rescue Board is in charge of evacuation in Estonia, while local governments have to be ready to receive and house evacuees. What I mean is that all of it comes together as broad-based national defense.

The new coalition in Germany decided to boost national defense spending to at least 3 percent of GDP. While no details were given, it was added that it goes beyond military national defense.

In summary. When we talk about defending our country, let us think or better yet put it in writing that we are effectively talking about broad-based defense. Let our actions also reflect that. It is the only way we can be strong and defend ourselves. Why not take it for granted that the Riigikogu National Defense Committee will function as the broad-based national defense committee in the future? Sounds good, doesn't it?

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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