Kalle Laanet: Ben Wallace the type of man you can go prospecting with
Britain's Defense Secretary Ben Wallace considers himself to be a Scot, while his political, and before that military, career has been strongly connected to Scotland, Reform Party MP and former Estonian Defense Minister Kalle Laanet writes.
A couple of books, or a visit to a museum, are nowhere near enough to obtain even an overview of the history of the UK.
In much the same way, it would be an overwhelming task to list, in the context of a school lesson, all the military and statesmen of this great nation, who have significantly influenced history.
We have to add the fact that it is not easy to stand out among the fresher and more colorful personalities. Let us remember Elizabeth II, who was head of state for more than seventy years, carrying out her duties steadfastly in all kinds of situations, to the extent that many former opponents of the monarchy became, under her influence, supporters of the queen.
With military affairs, of course, there is a wide difference in the assessment of personalities between peacetime and wartime. However, which of these times are we in now? There is no war in Estonia, nor in the UK. We are still taking part in a war, however, since there is conflict in Europe; particularly unhinged and brutal terrorist attack against humanity, against a free people, and against their country.
Reports from the front-line in Ukraine indicate that it is determined to fight for its freedom, while one person who is not even thinking about what to gain from this situation is Ben Wallace, now in his fourth year as Britain's Defense Secretary.
The UK is referred to as Estonia's framework country in NATO, and has been at the forefront in international support for Ukrainian throughout the war. In Britain itself, Ben Wallace has in turn been a protagonist in this process, along with Boris Johnson, and Liz Truss, who just Icarus-like, singed her wings,
Wallace considers himself Scottish and his political and military career has been quite oriented towards Scotland. So I am writing about the rhetoric of a Scotsman.
By the time of the NATO summit took place in Madrid at the end of June this year, even the most cautious leaders had realized that Russia's terrorist attack on its neighboring country, Ukraine, would neither end nor be eased as a result of phone calls to Vladimir Putin.
In this change in attitude, Estonia, and especially Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, undoubtedly played a leading role.
We could find those who had directly acknowledged and praised the actions of Estonia and Kaja Kallas, and the appropriateness of the assessments of both.
Ben Wallace was not one of these [who had underestimated Putin], however; as the political to of the best daughters and sons of Britain's Conservative Party, he had believed us all along. He did not trust the word of the Russians or of Putin, and he did not allow himself to be deceived or bought, either directly or indirectly. He believed in the experiences and attitude of Estonians and, more broadly, Russia's neighbors in eastern Europe.
Fortunately, he shared this position with then Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and thus the UK, Estonia's most significant partner within NATO, and took a leading role in the defense of Ukraine, alongside the US. Naturally, this all relates very directly to Estonian security.
At the Madrid summit, Ben Wallace and I agreed on a whole line of activities, which pivoted around direct action by the British in a significant increase in defense capabilities in Estonia, and elsewhere in the critical zone close to Russia.
Questions have been raised by the departure of the UK battle group (the Agile Task Force – ed.) based in Estonia [in 2022] in December. Does this mean our defenses are weakening?
No it does not. This is primarily about war tactics and maneuvering as in a game of chess.
It has nothing to do with the timid calculating of so many western state leaders who seem to think that maybe we can somehow get the Russian bear back into its den, and then we no longer have to help out and spend money on these "bears"; our budget is already in deficit, after all.
The Scotsman is a man of his word; on November 8, signatures were put to a document which confirms that a significant number of personnel will arrive in Estonia from the UK in the next year to defend our people, our nation and our state.
Estonia will then be getting Typhoon fighter jets, Apache attack helicopters, and Chinook transport helicopters. Estonia's own procurement to create air defense capabilities will take time, while in the meantime, Estonia will have Stormer air defense systems and MLRS. Soldiers from the UK ground forces who have already trained with us will arrive for Exercise Spring Storm.
As those who are interested have been aware for a long time already, our national military defense's prime goal is to maintain in constant readiness a force which can immediately repulse an aggressor's attack and can act on a daily basis in such a way that any dangerous neighbor becomes well aware of this force.
Why am I talking about one person, when our allies are countries, not individuals?
Decisions are not made by institutions by themselves, but by those people who lead them. By discussing and understanding the nature of true democracy in this way, we understand that there are differences of opinion even in a smoothly-operating coalition government.
At the end of the day, it is possible to understand those politicians who put the immediate well-being, jobs, pensions, and education of their own people ahead of extinguishing a fire of war that is burning far from home.
But at the same time, historical truths tend to show that the long-term-oriented leaders turn out to be right. If the influential island-dwellers were to stay at home to prune the roses now, the situation later could turn out to be many times more expensive and complicated. This is how such people argue in every state government which has been created by free citizens; this is how they argue and fight for their ideas and convictions in political parties as well.
For this reason I have highlighted Ben Wallace's consistency, whereby he has stood up for both his own and our country's security and fulfilled all his own - and therefore his country's - pledges. We are grateful to him for the trust shown in both Ukraine and Estonia, and for the exemplary fulfillment of allied relations.
Forecasting more accurately what will happen in Ukraine is about as smart as predicting the weather by counting the spots on the ladybugs. Naturally, some developments are likely, and some are even inevitable. The terrible actions against humanity, war crimes and all other crimes committed by the Russians have helped the leaders of the western countries to maintain their unity.
As soon as the situation seems to be leaning in favor of the Ukrainians, warnings start to be heard through the media that Ukraine is being pressured into making compromises.
In most cases, this is a competition between journalists, in which being the first to get a bite comes ahead of the truthfulness of the message, but that is not the only aspect.
In our ignorance, we eagerly listen to anyone who holds an influential title and has something to say. This is not wrong in itself, because of course you have to think about and consider all kinds of scenarios.
For example, Finnish politician Risto Penttilä, who recently made a presentation in Estonia, spoke both one way and another in the course of the same presentation, and thus interpretation remains the task of the mediator - and on the part of the reader, believing or... thinking with your own mind. Knowing the circumstances, history and background helps you to think with your own head.
For example, Penttilä said: "NATO is reliable, because it is based on Article 5 and its support is strong. But whether the main political capitals - Washington, Berlin, Paris - are still reliable is of course a major question; that is, the NATO political line versus the military line are two different things. I still take the position that Estonia's security is guaranteed within NATO, and if Finland and Sweden are eventually, and hopefully as soon as possible, members of NATO, then their security will be improved, and the security of the entire region will be boosted."
Please note that he did not mention London. Penttilä also has no doubts about London's attitude. I believe that the word of the Scotsman Ben Wallace plays a definite part in this as well. Penttilä does discuss this matter-of-factly, but still only discusses, and makes assumptions. That the signatures of defense ministers Ben Wallace and Hanno Pevkur are on the agreement is a fact.
Glory to Ukraine, and to men of their word!
Kalle Laanet was defense minister of Estonia January 2021-July 2022. Ben Wallace last visited Estonia in an official capacity in early March this year.
Editor's note: Ben Wallace was born in and went to school in southern England, and does not speak with a Scottish accent, though he served as an officer in the Scots Guards, later becoming a Member of the Scottish Parliament, later being elected to the House of Commons.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Kaupo Meiel