€132 million allocated to territorial defensive force for next four years

Defense League personnel on exercise.
Defense League personnel on exercise. Source: Asso Puidet and Karri Kaas / Defense League

The Defense League's (Kaitseliit) will receive €132-million worth of equipment over the next four years, including night vision and thermal equipment, methods of transport and also ammunition, the Ministry of Defense says.

The augmentation of the Defense League's capabilities mainly relates to a territorial defensive capability it has been tasked with, in forming an enlarged light infantry force in conjunction with Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) reservists.

This existing force will be doubled, from the current 9,500 fighters, to 20,000, by the beginning of next year. These extra personnel will naturally need equipping and supplying.

The procurement processes will be handled by the State Center for Defense Investments (RKK), and the equipment is expected to arrive in the first half of this year, in time for intensive, additional training at staff level and in the field, in the second half of 2023.

These training exercises are budgeted at an additional €7 million for this year, along with close to €2.2 million for the additional ammunition needed.

Extra staff in the form of instructors are to be deployed on a voluntary basis from the EDF reserve, for these training exercises.

This means the 2023 Defense League component of the state budget will be set at €50 million, compared with €48.5 million last year, and €38.6 million in 2021.

Following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine launched almost a year ago to the day, the government opted to build up existing territorial defense (Maakaitse) capabilities, allocating €30 million in additional funding to the Defense League.

The boosting of the territorial defense capabilities as an enlarged, light infantry force draws on the lessons learned from the Ukraine war so far. EDF reservists are those who have served a conscript term, and are liable for annual training thereafter. The Defense League is a wholly voluntary, territorially recruited force. The rationale for the territorial defense force to consist of personnel from both organizations, ie. that defenders who know the terrain they are defending will perform much more effectively, will see EDF reservists be able to report to the Defense League District (Malev) nearest to where they usually reside.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Karin Koppel

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