Riho Terras: The Defense Forces needs to be given as much money as it takes
Aggression against Ukraine has created an entirely new situation in European security policy. To survive, we need to boost defense spending by as much as necessary. There is no way around borrowing and talk of maintaining low public sector debt is best left in the era that ended on February 24, MEP Riho Terras writes.
I am often asked how much money does our national security require? But it is a misguided question. We need as much as it takes for our defensive capacity to be able to stand up to the aggressor. This is what decisions need to be based on, as opposed to an abstract and mystical figure of some sort.
The recent threat level renders the security situation of Estonia as a front line country completely different and fundamentally alters grounds for the ten-year national defense development plan. Estonia needs new military capabilities sums necessary for which are in a completely different league than previously.
The task of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) is to analyze what is required to contain the threat and take the result to the government to ask for the necessary sum. The recent starting point for defense planning has been that there is not enough money. Politicians need to completely forget this mindset. In short, national defense spending needs to be hiked by as much as EDF Commander Lt. Gen. Martin Herem requests.
It needs to be kept in mind that a very real military threat against Estonia will persist for a long time. States that are under real military threat do not need to invest 2 percent of GDP in defense but as much as 5-10 percent. It is not money spent on national defense but an investment to make sure there is a state to begin with.
In this context, we need to do much more to develop a civil protection system. It is worth considering how best to organize it in Estonia, with plenty of good examples in Europe. For example, every owner of an apartment building is obligated to add a shelter in Switzerland. The country has 360,000 community shelters that can fit the entire population and can be accessed quickly in a crisis.
Lennart Meri has said: "Estonia is expensive and Estonia is dear. It is expensive on the citizen's wallet and dear to the citizen's heart." President Meri has a point, and as residents of a small nation, we must contribute much more toward defense than the residents of large nations. People who love freedom and independence living next to Putin's Russia must agree to spare no expense on national defense.
Estonia has sported the lowest government sector debt in Europe for years. However, this statistical indicator is worth precious little in light of real military threat. Hiking Estonia's loan burden for the purpose of bolstering national defense is utterly inescapable and denying the EDF's request for funding would be equally irresponsible.
Considering current inflation and its effect on interest rates, refusing to borrow would be downright foolish.
By investing in national defense as much as it takes to match the threat, we would not only be upping our deterrence. It would boost the people's will to defend themselves and NATO allies' will to come to our aid in case of war.
If we cannot defend ourselves, we cannot hope someone else will do it for us. We must show character in the new European security situation and be strong not only in words but also our actions.
The Ukrainians are paying for their freedom in lives. We can still use euros. Let us pay what needs to be paid and show them how dear we hold Estonia.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski