Defense minister: Giving Ukraine howitzers not undermining national defense
Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) and head of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) capacities development department Kaarel Mäesalu told ERR that the decision to give Estonia's truck-towed howitzers to Ukraine does not harm our defensive capacity.
"Naturally, we made these decisions in cooperation with the Estonian Defense Forces and its commander. It follows our own procurement plans. We have moved up and already taken delivery of K9 [Thunder] self-propelled artillery systems, with more to arrive this year," Pevkur said on Thursday after it was communicated the government has decided to give Ukraine €113 million worth of military aid.
The defense minister also pointed out that Estonia is in the process of procuring effective anti-aircraft munitions and that the area has allied indirect fire capabilities, such as U.S. and U.K. HIMARS and M270 MLRS systems and AS90 mobile artillery.
"We have prioritized making sure Estonia's defensive capacity remains intact," Pevkur said.
Col. Mäesalu, who trained as an artillery man, echoed the sentiment. "We have enough howitzers today, with intensive training in progress. By year's end, both battalions will have the necessary number of mobile howitzers. And based on the systems' technical possibilities – which far exceed those of towed howitzers – we are already more capable today than we would be using the latter."
Mäesalu said that Estonia has 18 K9 Thunder mobile artillery systems today, with the final six arriving from South Korea later this year. "We can equip both of our artillery battalions with mobile howitzers, so that both would have 12 twelve systems by the end of this year," the colonel remarked.
Mäesalu also pointed out allied indirect fire systems in Estonia.
"We must also not forget that we are a part of NATO and its defense plans, and that NATO can always bring more indirect fire and anti-aircraft capacity to the region based on the situation. In any case, we are not giving away military capacity by sending older weapons [to Ukraine] that would have been written off in the coming years as it is," he said.
The EDF capability development chief added that Estonia's old 122 and 155-millimeter Soviet and West German howitzers still have a few good years in them, more so as Estonia will also provide Ukraine with spare parts.
"They are the most use to Ukraine right now," he emphasized.
The government has decided to surrender all of Estonia's old towed howitzers to Ukraine.
Tapa meeting was held to set an example
Peeter Kuimet, head of the Ministry of Defense's International Cooperation Department, said the meeting at Tapa Military Base was meant to provide an example to other countries.
"In a sense, the point of this meeting was to set an example, to be a beacon for another country that may need a bit of persuasion that it needs to move up a gear," he told Thursday's "Ringvaade".
Kuimet said the meeting's goal was to show ministers at tomorrow's meeting in Ramstein that "we really want and need to take the next step in military assistance to Ukraine".
"Whereas Western arms aid to Ukraine has so far been of the kind that has helped Ukraine to defend the country, to hold the front, to stabilize the front, and even to win a little back, the very clear wish and message of the defense ministers gathered in Tapa was that it is now necessary not only to maintain this aid, but also to increase it, to begin to provide aid in this quantity or of this quality, which will hopefully enable Ukraine not only to hold the front, but hope to regain the lost areas this year and try to end this war. Not with some kind of uneasy truce or a lukewarm frozen conflict, but to end this war with a military victory for Ukraine on the battlefield," he said.
Kuimet said the ministers who visited Tapa today are in agreement with Estonia and do not need convincing.
Besides Estonia and the UK, ministers attended from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, and Spain.
Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!
Editor: Mait Ots, Marcus Turovski