Riigikogu MP and member of parliament's defense committee Alar Laneman (EKRE), who retired from the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) with the rank of brigadier-general, criticized an EDF decision from last week to place three soldiers with the rank of general in reserve, especially as Estonia prepares to develop a new military capability and establish a division command element.
"These men are very experienced and well-prepared. The statement from the EDF that came out on Monday [in Estonian newspaper Õhtuleht] stating that there was no room for these men in defense forces as they were 'too good', is surprising. This is a peculiar justification in light of the fact that hostilities around us are escalating and we need to extend our defense capacity," told Laneman to ERR. "I believe these men are very valuable to Estonia."
Taavi Karotamm, chief of public affairs section of the Defense Forces General Staff, told Õhtuleht that the reason for placing major-general Meelis Kiili, brigadier-general Jaak Tarien and brigadier-general Artur Tiganik in theEDF reserve is because the defense forces lack vacant positions of such a high rank for officers with their qualifications, training and experience.
"First and foremost, we have said that a division and its command structure will be established; we also need senior officers to do that," Laneman said. "Divisional headquarters, divisional command staff—these are the places for senior officers—it is incomprehensible. The defense force is either not paying attention to what is in front of their eyes or they have something to hide from the public," he said.
"The expansion of the ground forces is another significant development. And yet another aspect, no less important, is the position of Chief of the Defense Forces, that is, the selection of the officer for this post."
Laneman said that it does not look good if the number of potential candidates for the position of military commander is reduced prior to the selection procedure. "It appears to be an artificial advantage for someone who is currently serving and has the ability to influence these decisions."
In response to the argument that the three general positions are missing from the EDF composition, Laneman replied that, given that the EDF and the Ministry of Defense are the ones responsible for producing those composition tables, these positions should be added.
"If there aren't any such valuable positions in the composition—likely a general-level position—or if the pay grade is inappropriate, it should be changed, because people, not personnel tables, are what make up national defense. If there are no spaces in the table, they should be penned in. This is the responsibility of the ministry of defense and the chief of the defense staff," Laneman said.
He added that, based on their professional backgrounds, the generals who will be in the reserve should have the most knowledge of how NATO functions, its goals and how Estonia's interests link to them.
"Young people ought to grow, and there should be opportunities for advancement in their careers. However, no one could argue against the fact that generals Kiili and Tiganik possess most up-to-date knowledge and deepest understanding of how NATO operates," said Laneman.
Given the plans for further development of air defense, Laneman said that Tarien, a graduate of the air academy, would be the best man for the job.
"In the context of expanding tasks, the composition tables will change anyway. As we are also boosting our ground defense forces, a review of the situation in the districts is also likely. Therefore, the composition tables should meet our present day requirements. That is why I can't take seriously the explanation that there are no spaces in the composition table—then they have to be made," reiterated Laneman.
Editor: Kristina Kersa