Estonia and Latvia are jointly to procure mid-range air defense systems following an agreement at the NATO Madrid Summit, which ended Thursday.
Defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) and his Latvian counterpart Artis Pabriks signed a letter of intent while in the Spanish capital, which will create a legal framework for the systems' joint procurement.
Laanet said: "The NATO Summit has sent a clear message that those who are ready to defend themselves will be helped.
"Estonia is a reliable ally and certainly one of those countries that will do its part," Laanet continued, according to a ministry press release.
The move demonstrates the importance Estonia places on its own air defense and contributions to it, alongside the support from allied nations. The ministry is aiming to submit a specific proposal on air defense capabilities at the end of July.
Latvia's minister Pabriks said: "Russia's aggression in Ukraine clearly demonstrates the need for air defense systems. Once again, I would like to thank Spain, which has recently deployed such systems in Latvia while we work on developing our own capabilities. I am delighted that we will be implementing this project together with Estonia, thus strengthening our regional cooperation and common defense."
Mid-range air defense capability would ensure air defense capabilities when mobilizing Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) reservists and for providing cover for the arrival of allies at Estonia's ports and on to its territory, in addition to the general use of such air defenses in enabling ground forces to move freely on the ground.
The allies' additional air defense strengthens Estonia's own capability and also provides additional support to incoming allied troops, for example by defending against adversary aircraft and missiles.
The Estonian Center for Defense Investment (RKK) will manage the joint procurement under the guidance and advice from the chiefs of defense of both countries.
Which of the available systems might make up the procurement was not reported.
The defense ministry's secretary general, Kusti Salm, expressed satisfaction with the results of the three-day summit in Madrid, adding that Estonia got most of what it had wanted.
This included an agreement at alliance-level earmarking brigade-sized units to Estonia, as well as to Latvia and Lithuania, and divisional command centers in each country as well – effectively the request for a division-sized NATO unit to be contributed to both by local and allied personnel, in the latter case high-readiness troops to be moved in where necessary, was granted.
The U.K.'s defense secretary, Ben Wallace, said an extra thousand troops would be allocated to Estonia, taking the total to close to 3,000, or over three times what it had been a year ago. The bulk of this extra one thousand would be on high readiness in the U.K. or outside of Estonia, whereas following the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the (battalion-sized) enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup based at Tapa was doubled in size, to around 1,700.
Editor: Andrew Whyte