Party politicians debate Ukraine situation, Estonia's defense capability

Live debate on
Live debate on "Esimene stuudio" on Thursday night. March 31, 2022. Source: Patrik Tamm/ERR

Leading politicians from Estonia's five parliamentary parties debated live on ETV's "Esimene stuudio" on Thursday night about the situation in Ukraine, Western sanctions, Estonia's defense capability, internal security as well as hate-inciting symbols.

Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet (Reform) said that the permanent stationing of a NATO division in Estonia is currently being worked toward.

"We must be prepared to defend every square meter of Estonia," Laanet said. "We must have more military capabilities and allies and their capabilities. We're trying to explain to our NATO allies how to defend Estonia. We have to have arms, capabilities and a leadership structure, at least the size of a division."

Social Democratic Party (SDE) chairperson Lauri Läänemets said that if Russia wanted to attack the Baltics, they would have to revise their military plans now already.

"Russia isn't looking at Estonia; it is looking at the Baltics, at Poland," Läänemets said. "If you mark Russian troops and and what NATO troops are in these countries onto a map, then looking at the bigger picture, we can understand that this works very well and this provides assurance that Russia won't be inclined to come make a social call. The war in Ukraine has proven that it will not get absolutely anywhere with the unit or capability that Russia had planned for the Baltics."

According to Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa), Prime Minister Kaja Kallas' (Reform) suggestion of a NATO division permanently based in Estonia is an entirely realistic idea.

"We have two tactical battalions here, one more on top of that, and the same amount in Latvia and Lithuania," Lukas said. "That's a brigade, brigade and brigade — and that's a division already. If the Danish-led [NATO Multinational Division North] gets seriously going, this would be possible. We definitely also need U.S. forces on site here as well, that much is certain. But what's most important, as we can see based on Ukraine — the main thing is the will to defend."

Minister of the Interior Kristian Jaani (Center) touched on the significance of the will to defend as well.

"Allies can do a great deal," Jaani acknowledged. "But this actually starts with how internal security is built up domestically, and how people possess the will to defend. If we want to avoid things reaching the point of conventional war, then how we contribute to internal security is crucial. If all is well on that front, then ideally we shouldn't even have to reach the point of deterrence."

Former interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) agreed with Jaani, noting that most conflicts between countries develop out of internal conflicts.

"We can see that the majority of conflicts begin as an internal conflict, which is then grown into foreign aggression," Helme said. "That would certainly be Russia's tactic here as well — to provoke some sort of conflicts and then thereafter use them as a pretext for intervention."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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