NATO ambassador: Estonia needs permanent air defenses

Estonian ambassador to NATO Jüri Luik.
Estonian ambassador to NATO Jüri Luik. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

An understanding that NATO's eastern flank needs to be strengthened is gaining support among allies, the Ministry of Defense has said. Estonia's ambassador to NATO believes permanent air defenses are required.

Further decisions about the defense of the eastern flank will be taken at the alliance's Madrid summit this summer.

Ministry undersecretary Tuuli Duneton said NATO's current deterrence strategy in Estonia is completely sufficient, but discussions behind the scenes suggest a move will be made away from a strategy of deterrence to defensive, ETV's current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Thursday.

"We are talking, for example, about the elements of air defense, indirect fire elements, which are the specific military shortcomings that Estonia has today, and what would be needed in this region. The third element would be the question of the command structure, what it would look like in a situation where forces have increased, and what exactly it should look like. It may not be the case that today's solution will work and [continues to] work in the future," she said.

Estonian Ambassador to NATO Jüri Luik (Isamaa) believes Estonia needs permanent NATO forces in Estonia to protect the eastern flank. The troops currently stationed in the region are only considered to be here on a temporary basis.

"Just like after Crimea, at first the troops arrived here in Estonia temporarily and later they became the so-called eFP advance battalion. Now additional troops have been sent temporarily, but at the Madrid summit, we will try to make this permanent. What does this mean? It means troops, it means equipment, it means ammunition — everything that permanent bases in Germany have, for example," said Luik.

Duneton said the ministry has clear goals for the summit and they primarily focus on reinforcing units.

"We have our own goals, our own proposals which we have raised with our bigger allies, especially those who are already on the ground in Estonia. We are discussing them and we have introduced them more widely within NATO. The goals are clear, it's just too early to comment," she said.

At the summit, one of the main topics will be permanently stationing air defense equipment in Estonia. Luik said similar systems are currently being moved to Poland and Romania.

Estonia currently has a battalion of 1,600 NATO troops based at Tapa, led by the UK. In recent months, allies have pledged to double the number of forces stationed here on a temporary basis. Similar action will be taken in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Source: NATO

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Editor: Helen Wright

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