The possibility of extending the length of military service in Estonia to two years, as proposed in the new government's coalition agreement, is connected to the need to ensure units, which will operate new weapons systems, are in a permanent state of readiness, said Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform).
In the sub-section of the new coalition agreement, which concerns military defense, the Reform Party, Eesti 200 and the Social Democratic Party (SDE) have promised to change the length of military service in Estonia under certain circumstances, in line with the advice of the commander of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF). "Military service connected to the development of certain capabilities may be extended to two years," the coalition agreement states.
Pevkur (Reform), who will continue in his role as Minister of Defense in the new government, explained to ERR, that as Estonia is soon to receive new military capabilities - HIMARS light multiple launch rocket systems, medium-range air defense systems, loitering munitions and a naval fleet with extended functions, which must remain in a permanent state of readiness – additional personnel will also be required to ensure things remain operational.
"While for example, we do have the Scouts Battalion (Scoutspataljon) on permanent standby now, we will also need to ensure that they are on permanent standby when the new capabilities arrive. That is why we need new standby units," Pevkur said.
Whether this will be achieved by extending voluntary military service or other forms of service is still to be decided, Pevkur said. "However, it should be based on volunteering and compensated in one way or another," he added.
This February, Pevkur proposed an extension to the maximum length of military service from eleven to twelve months for some specializations.
According to these proposals, conscripts in some important EDF branches will be assigned a wartime position halfway through their service period in order to operate newer and more sophisticated weapon systems.
Commander of the Estonian Defense Forces Martin Herem, has also said, since the beginning of his term in 2018, that shortage of personnel could be alleviated by conscripts being appointed to their wartime posts during their period of military service. Pevkur's proposed amendment to the regulation in February provides an opportunity to do just that.
Under the current Military Service Act, the duration of military service differs according to the branch, tasks assigned to the unit training conscripts and the nature of military training. The duration of military service may not be longer than 12 months, nor shorter than eight months and is fixed by government regulation.
Editor: Michael Cole