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EKRE present national defense program: tank companies for infantry brigades

Leo Kunnas.
Leo Kunnas. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The opposition Conservative People's Party (EKRE) on Tuesday presented its national defense program for the 2023 Riigikogu elections, according to which important parts of Estonia need to have medium-range air defense coverage, the EDF must double its indirect fire capacity and both of Estonia's infantry brigades need to have tank companies attached.

The platform was presented by EKRE's candidate for the post of defense minister Lt. Col. Leo Kunnas who said the party deems it necessary for Estonia to replace its recent so-called affordable national defense [concept] with one that would allow it to win.

"NATO is also a tool of national defense policy and a means of executing it. We need to convince our allies to station a long-range air defense unit in Estonia and turn the NATO Baltic air policing mission into an air defense mission," Kunnas said.

EKRE would ask the U.S. for a billion euros in military aid for the upcoming elections cycle, in addition to seeking support from major allies in Europe. Asking the Americans for a billion euros was also a part of its 2019 Riigikogu elections program.

The U.S. Congress a week ago on Tuesday presented the 2023 Government Funding Legislation which includes $350 million worth of support for countries affected by Russian aggression. Of this, $225 million is allocated to the Baltic Security Initiative (BSI), the Ministry of Defense said in a statement. This is $45 million — 20 percent — more than last year.

In order to develop a battle worthy defense force, EKRE believe it is necessary to boost annual conscription to 4,500, wartime Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) personnel to 55,000 and reserve to 40,000 troops.

The party also wants to restore military border guard and make the same level of equipment available to Defense League and EDF units. "We want reservists to keep their personal equipment with them at home to boost Estonia's level of military preparedness," Kunnas said.

EKRE also prioritizes civil defense as the civilian population suffers the most in a conflict. "We believe it is necessary to have the Building Code obligate major new developments in densely populated areas to include shelters. We must also set up shelters in existing buildings," Kunnas said.

The opposition leader finds that Estonia's defense spending needs to reach at least 3 percent of GDP and broad-based national defense spending, including civil defense, at least 0.5 percent of GDP.

EKRE also finds that the prime minister should be made the supreme commander of national defense with the necessary powers and means. Currently, the role belongs to the president, with the change requiring a constitutional amendment.

The party would also give the EDF and Defense League necessary intelligence and counterintelligence powers in the field of national defense. These currently belong to the Estonian Internal Security Service.

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Editor: Aleksander Krjukov, Marcus Turovski

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