The Estonian Defense Forces' (EDF) Nursipalu training area in Võru County has remained within its current boundaries for the last 15 years. A minesweeping practice area, which was completed four years ago, was supposed to have been the last major development at Nursipalu. However, Russia's war in Ukraine and Estonia's changing threat assessment has disrupted those plans.
The Estonian Defense Forces' (EDF) Nursipalu training area was established 15 years ago on Valentine's Day. However, in recent months, there has certainly been no love lost between the state and the local community in regard to its proposed expansion.
In the most recent developments, troops have been moved to the training area due to the creation of the minesweeping practice area which is now complete, along with new firing ranges, a hand grenade launching area and new access roads.
The introduction of the minesweeping practice area in particular, has significantly changed the way training is being conducted in the area.
"In the past, it was necessary to go to firing camps where all the firing exercises were carried out in succession, without the chance to make improvements in quality in the meantime. Now, this situation has changed dramatically," explained Lieutenant Colonel Jaan Kessel, commander of the Kuperjanov infantry battalion.
"Shooting drills can now be done however often they are needed, so that people can acquire the knowledge and skills they need," Kessel said.
There are currently around 300 U.S. allies based at the Taara Fortress in Võru County, some of whom were involved in combat exercises at the Nursipalu training area on Friday. Estonian conscripts also played an important role during the exercises.
"They asked us to provide indirect fire support to make their combat exercises closer to reality. This is important for us, so that we can learn how to work with our allies during wartime. In the same way, it is also a chance for our allies to see how we operate," explained Lieutenant Tõnis Kask, Group Commander of the EDF's minehunter unit.
However, now that a new confrontation has erupted between the government and locals around the issue of Nursipalu, many questions have arisen as to why the proposed expansion is only being done now, and why in such a rush.
According to Tiina Uudeberg, undersecretary for defense planning at the Estonian Ministry of Defense, the need to expand the Nursipalu training area became apparent at the end of 2021.
At that time, a new development plan for national defense was being drawn up, where changes to Estonia's threat assessment meant that the EDF's 2nd Infantry Brigade would be receiving new weapons systems and armored vehicles.
"At the end of 2021, as a result of these new developments in (defense) capabilities, we came to the realization that we needed to have far more training facilities than we have at the moment," said Uudeberg.
"Of course, we didn't want to start doing anything in Nursipalu before we had 100 percent certainty that it would actually be used for armored vehicles and maneuvering," she added.
Editor: Michael Cole