Official: Estonia, NATO changed defense plans after Russian miscalculations

Defense ministry Secretary General Kusti Salm.
Defense ministry Secretary General Kusti Salm. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

While both Estonia and NATO as a whole considered punitive deterrence – the recapture of occupied zones and destruction of the enemy – sufficient in the war in Ukraine, Russia's tendency to make miscalculations has necessitated the transition to obstructive deterrence when it comes to Estonia, Ministry of Defense Secretary General Kusti Salm said Monday.

Russia's behavior, including the assault on Ukraine itself, has demonstrated that with Estonia's eastern neighbor, it is necessary always to expect the unexpected, and be prepared for that country to make mistakes.

Punitive deterrence refers to both the will to win back territory taken over by an invader and to destroy said invader, while obstructive deterrence requires that the defense of a country begin immediately, and that a division-sized unit is present on the ground, or arriving in place, as soon as the offensive begins.

Appearing on ETV foreign affairs show "Välisilm" Monday, Salm said: "The plan [in Estonia] is that NATO would be here with a division if and when a conflict starts. This division would be trained, it would actually be present, integrated, and would be familiar with every corner of Estonia."

"They would possess weapons, equipment and everything else. NATO has a relatively good advance warning [system]. As a result, starting a war against NATO could not be done overnight, and would necessitate the deployment of troops," Salm said.

Salm said that Estonia has agreements with Britain which mean that have personnel at full readiness who are assigned to the defense of Estonia, and equipped and trained to that end, while there is a plan on how to get into Estonia during the war.

"We have agreements in place with three major NATO nuclear powers (ie. Britain, the U.S. and France – ed.), plus Germany," Salm added.

The most significant lesson to be drawn from the war in Ukraine is the need for defensive readiness from the first moments, and to achieve this Estonian needs a large enough defense force and sufficient supplies, Salm said.

"Concretely: Stocks, indirect fire capabilities. Compared with the end of 2021, €1.6 billion in Estonian state funds have been added to the national defense budget for the next four years. If the allies' contribution is factored in, this figure is close to two billion."

"The lion's share of this will go on boosting ammunition stocks and on those capabilities which guarantee us indirect fire capacity - the ability to influence the opponent from afar, the scope for creating strategic dilemmas for the opponent, and for making any attack on Estonia much more costly [to the enemy]," Salm went on.

Estonia should have air defense capabilities at the end of 2024, under the current plans, Salm added.

"At present, air defense [procurement] offers produced in western countries are on the table, while in the new year we shall try to reach an agreement. We are aiming to have these here via the fastest timescale; perhaps by the end of 2024, air defense can be fully operational in Estonia," Salm continued.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming

Source: 'Välisilm'

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