Defense leaders: Contingency plans in place for focused NATO reinforcements

From left, Lt. Gen. Martin Herem, Kusti Salm and host Astrid Kannel on Monday's 'Välistund'.
From left, Lt. Gen. Martin Herem, Kusti Salm and host Astrid Kannel on Monday's 'Välistund'. Source: ERR

NATO has contingency plans for bringing additional military personnel to Estonia, but this is not being discussed publicly, largely because diplomacy is still being tried, defense minister Secretary General Kusti Salm said Monday.

Salm told ETV foreign affairs show "Välistund" Monday that: "Decisions that affect us are made according to the threat situation.

"Within NATO, these decisions are made by the European Force Commander (SACEUR), and naturally in consultation with all the allies. As of today, we can confirm that these plans are in place, well-executed and effective."

Also appearing on "Välistund", Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) chief Lt. Gen. Martin Herem said that since any potential conflict affecting Estonia would affect the wider region, this wider region, and particularly the other two Baltic States, must also be considered when deploying forces. 

He said: "We have to look at our region as a whole - meaning the three Baltic states and also Poland. Any reinforcement planned there will be seen in exactly the same framework. Estonia's strength relates to the situation in Latvia and Lithuania, and vice versa."

Salm said NATO's deterrence structure has been in place for six or seven years and incorporates the NATO Response Force, tens-of-thousands strong.

"NATO has these at its disposal at all times, while today we are talking about the fact that when the alliance's foreign ministers met in December, instructions were given to strengthen the same forces. This is under discussion, and decisions may be made in the near future," Salm went on, adding these are not being made public given that at the moment, the main efforts still lie in diplomacy.

"And we in the western world have a habit of not backing up diplomatic efforts with weapons," he went on, a reference to Russia's recent demands regarding NATO.

Lt. Gen. Herem said that permanent additional U.S. forces being based in Estonia are not in the plans at the moment, with rather additional forces being deployed when needed.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) was active talking to the U.K. media over the weekend, and told the Financial Times that more U.S. troops could and should be based in Estonia, on the grounds that the Stars and Stripes is the biggest deterrent to forces under the Russian Imperial Tri-color and their government.

Kalev Stoicescu of think-tank the International Center for Defense Studies (ICDS) concurs, ERR reportes, saying Monday that targeted efforts are more siginificant in plugging gaps, than sheer numbers, particularly

NATO's eastern flank stretches from the Arctic Sea to the Black Sea, Salm noted

Meanwhile the Riigikogu foreign affairs committee chair Marko Mihkelson (Reform) told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) that the deployment of allied troops in the Baltic States should be a real military deterrent, and not just a political one.

He said: "If our allies decide to send something or someone here, they should clearly be integrated with defense plans and ready to defend us if necessary. This should not only be a political move only, but also a real military deterrent."

Herem pointed out that U.S. personnel are constantly in-country on a rotational basis, but since these are generally special forces personnel, people tend not to notice the as much.

Herem on 'Külilmilm': Ukrainian army has gotten more professional

Herem also appeared on another ETV show on Monday, "Külilmilm, where he said that Ukraine's army has developed a lot since the outbreak of the conflict in 2014.

"Ukrainians as units are undoubtedly better than they were before," he said.

"In addition to the fact that their individual fighters have gained combat experience, the commanders of these units are definitely better than they had been," Herem went on.

"Their armaments have improved, and their equipment is better maintained. And their morale is certainly high," he added.

Indications were that around 100,000 Russian Federation military personnel have been redeployed from points further east to essentially encompass Ukraine on tree sides.

"In my opinion, all of this is approaching either war, or intimidation suggesting war," he continued, adding that given Ukraine's geography, a limited invasion is a very real possibility on up to five fronts, which would be hard of Ukraine's forces to hold up.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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