Estonia better positioned to receive weapons shipments than Ukraine

Defense League personnel engaged in Spike training.
Defense League personnel engaged in Spike training. Source: Defense League (Kaitseliit)

Ukrainian fighters must quickly learn to use weapons sent from the West. It would be easier for Estonia to receive such aid and learn from allied soldiers in the region.

Ammunition and having enough of it is expensive, which is why munitions tend to run out sooner rather than later in war, Martin Hurt, research fellow at the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS), told ERR. This is also one of the reasons Ukraine is receiving so much weaponry that is new to them.

"No country has enough ammunition. Ukraine has not really invested heavily in national defense since the collapse of the Soviet Union. That is why they have a lot of former Soviet hardware for which munitions cannot really be sourced from Europe or America," Hurt explained.

European countries that still use Soviet arms are gradually switching to NATO standard systems. This also applies to Estonia.

For example, Estonian soldiers are familiar with some anti-tank weapons the Ukrainians have made successful use of in balancing out Russia's armored advantage. The Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) is increasingly betting on the same capabilities.

Martin Kukk, infantry inspector of the general staff's use of force department, visited Sweden this week to get an overview of their newest military systems.

"Yesterday, I managed to hold the Saab NLAW for the first time. It is said to be rather effective in Ukraine. Preliminary training takes about an hour," Kukk explained. "It is the same story for other weapons, whether we're talking about the Javelin or Spike LR. You can successfully fire one of them after an hour's instruction. You will really be able to destroy a tank after just one hour of training."

It is another story in a conflict situation, Kukk added. That is why it takes months to train a capable anti-tank troop.

Estonian reservists have already honed relevant skills during conscription and can simply be brought more munitions.

"When I first handled the Spike LR, I wanted to be a youth in my 20s who has spent more time holding a joystick than an assault rifle. I would compare it to the PlayStation console," Kukk said.

He added that the Ukrainians are currently proving that such systems can be used to repel armored assaults.

However, the instructor warned that the tables may easily be turned. "We need to be careful here. Right now, anti-tank has the advantage, while this will prompt armor manufacturers to find new means of protection. A lot of development is going into countering anti-tank systems. There are more than a few things on the market. Wealthier countries are going to great lengths to boost the survivability of their tanks and IFVs."

Ukraine is now receiving armored weapons systems; for example, German anti-air systems and mobile artillery. It takes longer to train successful operators of such systems. Estonia is already a NATO member, meaning that new systems would come with allied troops.

"The Estonian Defense Forces and Defense League are in charge of primary defensive capacity, while allied units remain the decisive factor in terms of defense," Martin Hurt said. "Someone giving us weapons and equipment is less important than hosting fully equipped allied units that have trained with us. That is the cornerstone of defensive ability," he said.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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