Estonia rejects Politico claims, describes them as malicious slander

Kusti Salm.
Kusti Salm. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Kusti Salm, secretary general of the Estonian Ministry of Defense, on Tuesday rejected accusations leveled in Politico according to which Estonia has made improper use of the European Peace Facility for the purpose of modernizing its weapons. Former EDF commander, MEP Riho Terras called the article an information operation.

"We are clearly dealing with a malicious spin, Politico is reporting lies, trying to drive a wedge between allies to slow down Ukraine support," Salm told ERR on Tuesday.

Politico writes that Estonia uses replacement value to calculate the cost of equipment send to Ukraine, while several other member states calculate it differently. Using replacement value as the basis for relevant calculations allows states to claim more in the way of reimbursement.

Salm refuted the claim. "The logic behind replacement value is that replacing this stuff as well as procuring it new for Ukraine would cost exactly the same. Everything has been done in accordance with rules, whereas the [absolute] sums are big because we have sent over a colossal amount of aid, orders of magnitude above what other Western countries have given."

The secretary general said that during the first weeks of the war, aid from Estonia was second only to that from the U.S. "We sent over 40,000 anti-tank mines, 100 Javelins, 35,000 rifles – and this was before the European Peace Facility (EPF) was created. We sent tens of millions of cartridges, our effort ran laps around what others did," Salm emphasized.

All weapons, equipment and ammo sent to Ukraine by Estonia have been fully functional and used also by the Estonian Defense Forces, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement published on Tuesday.

"We have done as much as possible to help Ukraine. On the battlefield, the effect is important, it makes no difference whether the equipment is used or brand new. Ukraine has appreciated Estonia's help and has never complained about the quality of the equipment," it added.

"Coming back to the Politico article – it is clearly a malicious spin where an anonymous source is spewing lies. Estonia has not sent Strela shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons to Ukraine, nor has it received Stingers as reimbursement. It is nothing but a blatant lie, which Politico, as a respected publication, has printed out of sheer carelessness and in glaring violation of journalistic ethics, and which is clearly malicious" Salm reiterated.

Asked who could be interested in spreading such information, Salm replied: "This is speculation, of course, but it comes as no surprise there are forces in this world who do not want to see Ukraine given much more aid and would rather see a dialed-back, more restrained process."

The MOD's secretary general said that EU presidents and prime ministers approved Estonia's proposal of sending Ukraine one million artillery shells last week, adding that it is possible Estonia "stepped on someone's toes in pursuing this, which prompted this campaign to spread such lies anonymously."

Salm pointed out that Estonia has gotten over €150 million from the EPF, while it has given Ukraine over €400 million worth of aid in replacement value. "We are talking about less than half of nominal replacement value we have gotten back," he said.

But the same has applied to all other contributing countries, he added.

"Finland, Baltics and the U.S. calculate their aid based on replacement value because, at the end of the day, defense readiness can be measured in how successfully you restore those capabilities," he explained.

Terras: This comes off as an information operation

MEP Riho Terras took to social media to write that Politico's article comes across as an information operation of peculiar timing.

"What's noteworthy is that the piece is published at a time when EU countries are planning to support Ukraine with one million rounds of artillery ammunition."

Terras, a former chief of the Estonian Defense Forces (2011-2018), also pointed out that Estonia has never used Strelas but did give Ukraine Javelins even before the war started on both Facebook and Twitter.

"Looking at the list of countries accused of abusing the EPF, we see Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. These are EU (and NATO) border states who have been among the biggest Ukraine supporters and best understand the threat Russia poses because of their geographic location."

Riho Terras. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

"Sums the said countries have asked for are interpreted maliciously for the purposes of the article. It must be emphasized that sums needed to replace arms are calculated based on what's possible. The same message and explanation has been sent to all Member States," Terras added.

Estonia has followed EPF rules in determining whether aid given to Ukraine is to be classified as book value or as replacement value. This is to help member states regain their capabilities and replenish stocks quickly, so they are able to reduce their security risk. In addition, every donation is validated by the EUMS clearing house mechanism. These rules apply to every member state equally.
Replacement value should only be used – and Estonia had acted accordingly – when production of a specific equipment is discontinued or such equipment is needed for the purpose of restoring essential military capabilities, the MOD writes in its comment.

Second, equipment which does not fulfil these criteria is reimbursed at book value or even at zero value, which Estonia has also done in various cases.

Last but not least, supporting Ukraine is not a competition and its core rationale is not about an EU reimbursement scheme. The stakes are much higher – repelling aggression in 21st century Europe and preserving our security architecture, the ministry said.

"Sowing doubt and bringing Russian propaganda into EU politics is unacceptable!" Terras tweeted in conclusion.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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