New defense concept: Raise defense spending to at least 3 percent of GDP

Exercise Okas 2022 in progress
Exercise Okas 2022 in progress Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

Due to the heightened regional security situation, Estonia should raise its defense spending to at least 3 percent of GDP, a new draft security policy report prepared by the Government Office has recommended.

Estonia's National Security Concept is updated every four years and the new draft has been written, with a delay, after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Mariliis Gross, deputy director of the Government Office's Security and National Defense Coordination Office, said the basic principles have not changed.

"The direction has been consistently the same. While many people say that Russia's aggression against Ukraine in February was a wake-up call, the reality is that Estonia has been saying that Russia is a threat for a very long time. Compared to 2017, there has not been a radical turnaround, but the direction is the same, the threat is more serious now, it needs to be dealt with more quickly, more acutely," she said.

Previous statements included in the 2017 report related to necessary cooperation and dialogue with Russia have been removed.

EDF troops training at Nursipalu. Source: mil.ee

The draft now clearly states Russia is Estonia's biggest security threat and three main conclusions have been included.

Firstly, Estonia is facing the most difficult international security environment since the restoration of independence in 1991.

Secondly, the country must be ready for risks previously considered to be unthinkable.

Thirdly, defense spending must rise to at least 3 percent of GDP.

Additionally, the draft states it is existentially important for Estonia to remain part of the democratic West and that the democratic West continues to exist.

Raimond Kaljulaid. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Raimond Kaljulaid (SDE), chairman of the Riigikogu's National Defense Committee, said the document is not legally binding but it is hoped the Riigikogu will agree with it.

Both Kaljulaid and Gross emphasized that broad-based preparedness is now more important than before.

While it is likely no more big changes will be added to the draft, Kaljulaid said a question could be raised about allocating 0.5 percent of GDP for civilian defense spending in the future.

The concept is currently awaiting feedback and will be put before the Riiigkogu in January and passed before the election in March.

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Editor: Aleksander Krjukov, Helen Wright

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