Helme to EDF chief: Government, military leaders have left us 'defenseless'
Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) chair Martin Helme on Saturday doubled down on his earlier criticism of the leadership of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF), charging them with stripping Estonia of its defenses, to the extent that the ensuing defensive holes will not be made good for several years.
On Friday, EDF commander Gen. Martin Herem had issued a response to statements made by Helme and reported in daily Postimees, saying these were false claims which needed rebutting, by Gen. Herem and his second in command, Maj. Gen. Veiko-Vello Palm, despite then being charged with meddling in politics.
Helme referenced data on EDF artillery capabilities which had been received in response to an interpellation made to Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform), reiterating a claim that the current government and EDF leadership had significantly weakened Estonia's defensive capability.
"We have carried this out in a situation where we are a front-line nation, meaning we should be demanding more weapons from other NATO countries, not distributing them," Helme said, referring to Estonia's military aid to Ukraine.
"These decisions can have fatal consequences. Should an offensive come before the arrival of new weaponry, we would not be able to defend ourselves whatsoever. Hundreds, maybe thousands of Estonian people would lose their lives unnecessarily as a result of this. Our soldiers would be sent to perish in fruitless combat. This is irresponsible, heartless, thoughtless and diversionary. I do not know in whose interests the decision-makers are serving, but these are certainly not Estonia's interests," he added.
Helme stated in his social media post that due to being tied up with election campaigning matters and party affairs all day Friday, he had not caught up with media reports on the saga until that evening, which he added had of itself been a good thing, calling the media storm "a pretty brutal 'EKRE-phobic' hysteria, being fueled with shameless lies."
"I made an interpellation to Defense Minister Pevkur a few weeks ago, in order to obtain official figures relating to our artillery. I have long criticized the Reform Party-led government for its diligently and thoughtlessly disarming of us, giving away our heavy weapons to a great extent, and leaving us essentially defenseless."
"This is usually answered with emotive slogans and begins to spin in terms of numbers. That is why the numbers received during the interpellation are very good," Helme went on, before going on to list various defense details summarized as follows.
Between 2022 and the present, Helme said, Estonia has donated 67 field guns of 122mm or 155mm caliber, adding that Pevkur's interpellation had itemized the number of towed artillery pieces of these calibers at 66, as of the start of 2022, ie. more had been donated than had been owned in the first place, he said.
In addition, trucks used by the artillery and "a very large volume of ammunition" had been given away, Helme claimed.
Whereas the EDF had two full artillery battalions as of the start of 2022, armed with the above guns, now there is one battalion, armed with 18 K9 "Thunder" self-propelled guns, Helme said, citing Maj. Gen. Palm's words in a Postimees interview in which he reportedly said that there had been a "temporary, at least on paper, fall in combat capabilities."
Helme stated that this would be a longer-lasting situation than a temporary one, with the number of K9s in service to drop to six or fewer by the end of this year (from the current 18), he said.
Twelve additional K9s ordered by the Estonian state will not arrive in-country until 2024-2025, he said, while the planned HIMARS procurement is not clear, in terms of when the weapons systems will reach Estonia, he said.
Helme also pointed to what he said were weaknesses in air defenses, in his post.
"You can wail, dear liberal-globalists, but the facts you simply cannot fight against. You are pests," his post rounded off.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael