Estonia should proactively boost its own defense industry, says expert

Meelis Oidsalu.
Meelis Oidsalu. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

One million artillery rounds will provide Ukraine with the capability for another six months in Russia's ongoing artillery war — and not very lavishly, security expert Meelis Oidsalu said in an appearance on ETV morning program "Terevisioon" on Tuesday. Oidsalu believes Estonia should proactively be developing its own defense industry as well in order to boost its ammo stockpiles.

"Since last fall, Ukraine has been facing a rather acute artillery ammunition crisis," Oidsalu said, noting that this is why the Russians have had a threefold advantage over them in terms of firepower.

"While they're saying that the Russians are starting to run out of ammo, that certainly doesn't appear to be the case," he added.

"Giving shells to Ukraine is an overdue emergency decision, because the ammo has long since run out," the expert said. "Now with a little nod and thanks to a brilliant proposal by Estonian Defense Ministry officials and members of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) they've figured out some kind of format for getting the EU to the table to discuss this issue."

For Estonia and Europe, this is a tiny step toward filling the vast emptiness present in Europe's ammunition depots, he continued.

"The €1 billion from this aid package that will go toward ammunition production, that accounts for less than a percent of Europe's annual defense market," Oidsalu said, adding that such a small injection will not revive the defense industry.

"This is the first little timid step," he continued. "Estonia itself only has just a few days' worth of combat supplies as well. As demonstrated by Ukraine's example, in war you have to endure much longer than that; you have to endure the final few decisive months of the war as well."

According to the expert, ongoing coalition talks in Estonia have not provided a clear message that Estonia itself will be increasing its own combat stockpiles to the necessary level.

"We should agree at the EU level to generate a couple months' worth of ammunition stocks," he said. "Right now most European countries have a couple days' worth, if even that."

Also planned is support that will help open up new lines in the arms industry, he noted. "It will take on part of a company's investment risk, and that's the kind of thing that should be considered in Estonia as well — by establishing a defense industrial campus in Tapa," he suggested.

"Were we to fulfill our promise to Ukraine at current production capacity, it would take us three years to do so," Oidsalu emphasized. "Europe could realistically produce 300,0000 15 mm shells a year."

The fastest solution, he acknowledged, would be stockpiled inventory. "Countries that had been hesitant until now, including on financial grounds, would receive a certain amount of compensation," he added.

"It's great to say one million rounds, but that's still just a tiny step," the security expert said. "Russia is watching to see whether the EU will fire up its war industry in wartime mode. If that doesn't happen, then Russia will receive a clear signal that they simply have to outlive us this war of attrition. And that is precisely what the Russians are doing."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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