Defense ministry official: Estonia got what it asked for in Madrid

Press conference announcing €3.8-billion defense budget for 2023-2026, Friday, May 20 2022.
Press conference announcing €3.8-billion defense budget for 2023-2026, Friday, May 20 2022. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Estonia received almost everything it asked for at NATO's Madrid Summit, Ministry of Defense Permanent Secretary Kusti Salm told ERR on Wednesday, after the alliance agreed to strengthen defenses on its Eastern Flank.

"What we went to ask for is about what we got. We wanted it to be possible to defend Estonia from the first second, from the first meter, and that this is ensured not only with words, but by real forces, command structures, plans and everything else that belongs there. Today we got all these decisions," he told "Aktuaalne kaamera" in an interview.

"Today is an important day for Estonia, it is an important day for the Estonian people and Estonian entrepreneurs. It is safe to live in Estonia. It is safe to invest in Estonia."

On Wednesday, NATO agreed to allocate brigade-sized units to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and construct division command centers in each country.

Salm said this shows the alliance is ready to defend Estonia "from the first second, in fact already before that, should a conflict break out" with 15,000-20,000 personnel.

In Estonia, the division will be made up of one international NATO brigade and two Estonian. Creating a command structure means the infrastructure will already be in place should anything happen in the future and units will be able to coordinate with each other.

The permanent secretary said the UK, which leads Estonia's current Enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup, will increase its forces to around 3,000 personnel.

"The task of this brigade is to protect Estonia," he said, adding the majority of the British forces already have experience in the country having rotated in and out as part of the eFP.

Asked how many additional troops will be coming to Tapa, the eFP base, Salm said: "These units will not be located in Estonia all the time. They're going to rotate here piece by piece. And that's perfectly normal, they don't have to be here [all the time]. They must know how to get here quickly, what needs to be done here.

"But I think the order of magnitude will be between 500 and 1,000 more."

Asked how soon they can arrive in Estonia if needed, he said this will need to be reversed so they can arrive in a matter of weeks.

The official said the UK has also promised Estonia weapons such as long-range rocket launchers, helicopters and air defenses.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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