Urmas Reinsalu: Defense decisions require supplementary budget
Our primary goal needs to be increased allied presence in the Baltics, especially that of the United States. There is no alternative in the current security situation, former Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu writes.
Europe finds itself in a security crisis and one that poses a military threat to the Baltic countries. It is a threat to Russia's neighbors, the whole of Europe and NATO.
It is absolutely necessary to immediately discuss new security policy principles in this context. Our national defense priorities and steps we take with our allies to manage this military risk work as our threat assessment in the crisis. For example, both Finland and Lithuania clearly recognize Russia as a source of military threat in their defense policy. There is nothing covert or inappropriate about it.
Our primary goal needs to be increased allied presence in the Baltics, especially that of the United States. There is simply no alternative in the current security situation.
The first thing we need to apply for is a part of F-16 fighters moved from Germany to Poland, cooperating with the air policing mission out of Ämari and Šiauliai, to be stationed in the latter instead. We need to apply for a revision of Baltic-Poland defense plans following negative developments in the security situation.
The latter also requires taking a fresh look at independent defense capacity. The government passed the new ten-year national defense development plan in December. The pace of its implementation needs to be reconsidered and all parliamentary forces included in the process. We need consensus to which there is no alternative in the current crisis. We need realistic decisions populated with content that can boost our defensive capability faster.
As concerns Prime Minister Kaja Kallas' proposals regarding additional defense spending, they were hardly explained in detail. That said, procuring additional munitions is definitely sensible. Another sensible move would be to plan a supplementary budget for defense needs and do it without delay to allow us to make these fiscally binding decisions quickly.
Isamaa is convinced that Estonia needs to be capable and have sufficient capacity also in the field of internal security. For this purpose, it would be necessary to cancel planned layoffs in the field as they would have a destabilizing effect. They are not needed – this is not the time.
We need to commend the government for canceling a planned €100 million cut in the national defense strategy last spring. Even if it happened in a very dramatic fashion, with two persons involved forced to face no-confidence motions in the parliament. But the message hit home for which credit is due. The government realized that the plan was shortsighted. Allow me to recall that the proposal was made a few months after Vladimir Putin had amassed a considerable number of troops on the Ukrainian border.
Arms aid for Ukraine needs to be implemented post haste, including coordinating the effort with manufacturers as a precondition. What is more, we must urge more allies to follow suit. We must also work with allies to emphasize that aid is needed without delay.
This leads us to my prior proposal to work with allies in calling for an automatic sanctions mechanism that has in fact been put in place for Russia should it launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The military escalation in January of last year resulted in a meeting between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin. Two-way talks are also being held today. It is good that NATO members have demonstrated their unity, while militant and threatening rhetoric that is in direct conflict with UN statutes does not provide grounds for negotiations.
It would have been appropriate for Estonia as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council to call for the condemnation of Russian ultimatums for what would basically constitute a new Yalta. That is precisely why the Security Council, as a place for peacefully resolving problems, has been created.
We find ourselves in various crises. The security crisis threatens our independence. It means that we need decisiveness, clarity and a functional government. The cabinet's working ability is of crucial importance under the circumstances, while we need to admit that it is wavering today. We need to ask ourselves whether we feel confident the government can make decisions in different matters and tackle security concerns.
Security and national defense need consensus. It would have been better had we tried to resolve these matters in consensual debate in the Riigikogu National Defense Committee and including the entire parliamentary community as we cannot afford to trail behind events.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski