Lauri Läänemets: Diverse contacts key in defense policy

Lauri Läänemets.
Lauri Läänemets. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The capability of Estonian defense policy is determined by diversity of contacts and every ticket wins in the collective defense lottery, Minister of Internal Affairs Lauri Läänemets writes in a rebuttal to a comment by Meelis Oidsalu.

Meelis Oidsalu rather arbitrarily claimed in a recent opinion piece that contacts between the Social Democratic Party (SDE) and the U.K. Labor Party in the field of defense cooperation somehow constitute a security risk. A rather peculiar position if we consider Oidsalu's former links to security policy.

The security and defensive capacity of a small country like Estonia rests in the number and diversity of its contacts as every tickets wins in the collective defense lottery based on bilateral relations.

Oidsalu is correct in that security is an important topic in the elections context and that it is in the interests of the Reform Party to keep the pot boiling as the prime minister's party feels less at home when it comes to social security and subsistence. However, that does not mean a single party could monopolize a topic as important as security.

It is only natural when parties create and maintain ties to colleagues abroad. Both in the European Parliament and bilaterally. The Social Democrats cooperate with colleagues from the Finnish prime minister's party, social democrats in Sweden and Denmark. We often bounce our ideas off the German social democrats. The latter, I will admit, is more taxing.

In the U.K., Labor is our sister party with which we have maintained a good rapport for decades, both in terms of people's coping and foreign and security policy.

Major decisions that shape international defense cooperation are always political and stem from its domestic branch. Recent domestic political turbulence in the U.K. does not come as a surprise to those who keep up with foreign policy, which does nothing to change the fact the U.K. has been a steadfast partner and also provided aid for Ukraine.

We must always keep in mind that politics is fickle. One needs to reinforce the home front and keep different channels open. Provided domestic political turbulence in the U.K. will continue, it pays to keep in mind that Labor has the popular support to form the next government, whether after extraordinary elections in a few months or general ones a few years from now. If anything, good relations and being on the same frequency serve as a double guarantee for continued Estonian and U.K. relations.

This makes Oidsalu's claim that holding discussions on this level and maintaining contacts somehow constitutes undermining national security absurd to say the least. Considering the importance of defense cooperation with the U.K. in our security portfolio, it would be irresponsible of me, as chairman of the Social Democrats, not to talk to our sister parties. Keir Starmer is the head of Britan's largest opposition party and the likely next PM who believes that the Brits can and could contribute even more to Estonia's defense. It remains utterly incomprehensible how such a position could work to undermine security.

I understand it is in the interests of the Reform Party and Isamaa to keep their campaigns centered on security as their proficiency in other areas is inevitably held back by their limited empathy, but that does not mean they can be allowed to monopolize the field.

U.K. and Estonian defense cooperation is being discussed in other formats than the Reform Party and the Tories or that official level. For example, a U.K. Parliament delegation made up of both Tories and Labor MPs recently visited the Riigikogu. Chairman of the National Defense Committee Raimond Kaljulaid discussed our security situation and defense cooperation with them. If Oidsalu compares this kind of communication to a gamble, then in this lottery, every ticket wins, while betting on just one horse would constitute playing Russian roulette.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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