Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform Party) has confirmed information published in The New York Times on Monday according to which NATO has regional defense plans for its eastern flank, including defending the Baltics by keeping Russian forces out of their territory.
"It is perhaps a somewhat simplified approach, while that is indeed the size of it. If previously, deterrence centered around NATO's ability to defend and if necessary retake its territory, new defense plans concentrate on not having the luxury of surrendering territory in the Baltic region that lacks strategic depth," Pevkur explained.
The defense minister emphasized that if so far only Estonia's own plans have concentrated on defending the country from the first meter, since the NATO summit in Madrid, the alliance's general defense posture has been shifting toward deterrence and defense plans to immediately defend every meter of allied territory.
Pevkur said that NATO has been working on separate regional plans that cover Estonia and the Baltics for some time "We have put great effort toward making sure they are appropriate and cover what is needed for the defense of Estonia together with allies," the minister remarked.
"The final version of the draft, which members can now start commenting on, fits our interests rather nicely. Some details can still be improved, while the goal should be to have plans that could be approved on the highest political level at the NATO summit in Vilnius."
Estonia's defense minister also said that the new plans consider Sweden and especially Finland's NATO membership. The fact that Finland is a member of the alliance now is of crucial importance for Estonian security," he emphasized.
"We need to keep in mind that Finland has met NATO standards and pursued close cooperation with the alliance in the past. That cooperation has now graduated to Finland being a full NATO member, which changes the regional defense plan," Pevkur said. "Of course, it comes as great news for Estonia as defending the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea is very important. Looking only at supply routes, we are no longer dependent on the Suwalki Gap (southwest of the border between Lithuania and Poland, between Belarus and Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast – ed.) but can also create a NATO corridor up north. This is a hugely important aspect from the point of view of defending Estonia," the minister suggested.
Pevkur also said that the division to be formed in Estonia and the U.K. brigade therein must become parts of defense plans, while relevant capacity should be created by year's end.
"All the forces our allies have already sent here are counted as part of the [regional] defense plan. What we still need to work on is making sure everything that's included in the plan could be executed as quickly as possible. Our wish and goal is for capacity that members will designate for defending various regions to be ready to realistically defend those areas by the end of this year," he remarked. "This still needs work, and there are many activities involved for a lot of NATO members. What matters to us is that our framework contributor the U.K. has previously designated its brigade as part of the division in Estonia."
"Therefore, we will continue our activities as planned – yes, we are quite happy with what those regional plans entail now. But as I said, making sure the plans are practicable should the need arise requires a lot more work," Pevkur said.
PM Kaja Kallas (Reform) shocked the Estonian and international public in June of last year when she told Financial Times in an interview that NATO defense plans from the period would see Estonia wiped from the map as they included the possibility of 180 days of Russian occupation. Kallas said that it was more than 100 days since Russia invaded Ukraine then, which kind of a situation would amount to nothing short of the destruction of statehood and cultures for the Baltics.
The New York Times wrote on Tuesday that Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the costliest conflict in Europe since World War II, has propelled the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into a full-throttled effort to make itself again into the capable, war-fighting alliance it had been during the Cold War.
Editor: Marcus Turovski