Secretary general for defense: Our aim is to double allied presence

A British Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank on exercise in Estonia. The RTR will be staying in Estonia several months beyond the end of its rotation.
A British Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank on exercise in Estonia. The RTR will be staying in Estonia several months beyond the end of its rotation. Source: Ministry of Defense

Secretary General of the Ministry of Defense Kusti Salm said that Estonia will head to the NATO summit this summer seeking the doubling of allied military presence in the country. This would grow Estonia's wartime force to 50,000 members.

"The goal of this reinforced presence target is to create a situation to convince Russia that all manner of military aggression against NATO would be doomed to fail from the start. This level can be achieved if NATO can have a division-size land unit in each of the three Baltic countries," Salm said.

This would take doubling current allied presence in Estonia, Salm suggested. "The division will have to consist of a division headquarters, an allied mechanized brigade, made up of a headquarters and at least three battalions. A division-level formation that would have an indirect fire, air defense, intelligence or other unit which is being negotiated in terms of what our allies can contribute, as well as prepositioned equipment as part of the decision," Salm said.

"All of this will create certainty that NATO can have a land division in Estonia on the brink of war. Units physically present in Estonia. Units that are trained and know every patch of forest, every local government, how to fight a war in Estonia and that have considered maneuvers and other operational aspects from every possible aspect," the secretary added.

He said that the government has already decided to double territorial defense units to 20,000 men. "Adding up existing units, additional territorial defense units and allied reinforcements, all of it should double Estonia's military strength. Our wartime structure should be on the other side of 50,000 strong," he said.

"We will be in intensive talks April through June on the military, diplomatic and political levels. These will be especially important with our British and American, but also Baltic colleagues. The decision should materialize by the third week of June, which is when a NATO defense ministerial is planned," the secretary general said.

Salm added that such a massive spike in allied presence required additional infrastructure investments and training opportunities all over the country.

He emphasized that the transatlantic security situation has fundamentally changed, which is something all NATO heads of state agree on. "There is no going back to the February 23 defense and security situation."

"Even though we have all concluded that the Russian Federation has made strategic, tactical and operational mistakes, we have no reason to believe they will not return to the drawing board and make all the necessary changes to come back stronger and more determined," he noted.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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