Kallas: NATO's new plan moves from deterrence to defense

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Margus Tsahkna and Kaja Kallas.
Margus Tsahkna and Kaja Kallas. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

NATO's new plan to defend the Baltic states and Poland was praised by the prime minister, foreign minister and chair of the Riigikogu's Defense Committee on Thursday.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said there has been a shift away from deterrence.  

"Compared to last year before the NATO summit, the situation is very different. We came out of the Madrid Summit with very strong decisions, and it is good to see that these decisions are being implemented. /---/ In the big picture we have moved from a deterrence posture to a defensive posture, which is important for us," Kallas told ERR.

Under the new plan Allies will be present in Estonia from the first necessary moment, she said.

"And it also means that our Allies will have units assigned to us to train together. The structure of who gives orders to whom is in place. That should make the whole thing work," the prime minister said.

Tsahkna: The plan sets out how to win a war

Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (East 200) told ERR he is satisfied with the new plan, but cannot discuss the details. 

"But these are realistic plans, and they are realistically met by capacity. Perhaps every plan also needs to have the capacity, the technology, the capabilities, the logistics, the roads. That's a pretty big step forward. If we have been saying all along that Estonia is better protected than ever before, I can tell you that it is getting better and better." said Tsahkna.

The minister said NATO's plans have become more and more detailed. 

"What I can say today, as Foreign Minister, is that NATO's Article 5 is capable of being triggered in real terms, with its capabilities, from the very first second, if there is a need," he added.

The plan has two dimensions.

"One is deterrence, which is also known in Russia to be realistic deterrence. It is no longer Article 5 in just words and political terms. And the other side is that if something should actually happen, we are still capable of fighting back very hard. So the cost [for the aggressor] is very high," Tsahkna said.

"Coming to Estonia's own capabilities, if years ago the idea was that we would hold out until the Allies arrived, today our own actions are also planned in such a way that if there is actually a military conflict on our territory, it is not only until the Allies arrive, but how to win the war. It is a very different understanding of how to plan our own actions. I can't go into more detail than that," added the foreign minister.

Riigikogu defense committee head: NATO defense plans substantive

Kalev Stoicescu. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

NATO's present defense plans in relation to Estonia and the wider region are perfectly adequate and satisfactory, MP and defense expert Kalev Stoicescu (Eesti 200) says.

Stoicescu, who chairs the Riigikogu's national defense committee, told ERR Thursday that: "NATO's defense plans for the Baltic States, and the entire region in general, are substantial, and include classified plans that cannot be commented on either in terms of content or level of detail. But this much can be said: We are satisfied with the process and the defense plans are in our opinion up to the task. They will be taken on at the latest at the NATO summit in Vilnius in July, if not earlier."

Stoicescu added that he would like to give recognition to the Commander-in-Chief of NATO's European forces, U.S. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, who has done, and continues to do, a very good job in finalizing the defensive plans, Stoicescu said.

"Naturally these plans will be such that NATO can act as soon as possible and according to the situation," Stoicescu stressed.

US Gen. Christopher Cavoli on a visit to Tapa base in Estonia. Source: EDF HQ / mil.ee

On the ground, in addition to the brigade-level structure assigned from the British Army to the Estonian Defense Forces divisional level structure, plus similar units allocated to Latvia and Lithuania, Estonia can count on the very high readiness of the NATO Rapid Response Force (NRF) and in addition to a further 30,000-member rapid reaction force, which is also possible to respond in a relatively short time within an operation area as needed.

"Then there is the continuation force etc. - in this respect, this picture is still a little more complicated, but at the same time very logical as to how these forces are located and which forces go where, when necessary," Stoicescu went on.

He also said that in the event of a possible military threat, there is always a certain amount of time for preparation, in which time additional units can be deployed to Estonia, which would wholly deter any enemy's attack: "So that they will be able to observe that there are large enough forces on the other side, that they don't have to attack or to provoke a war. Or, if it is not possible to deter the enemy, there would still be sufficient forces against the aggressor."

"Since we saw the advantage that Russia gained against Ukraine in the first days and weeks of the war, when it occupied a territory larger in area than the three Baltic states combined. Such a situation must of course be ruled out," Stoicescu stressed.

EDF logistics battalion. Source: EDF / mil.ee

Defense plans also take Finland into account

Furthermore, NATO's up-to-date plans have already taken into account the accession of Finland to the alliance, Stoicescu noted.

"Finland is a member of NATO now; we cannot leave Finland and its territory out of any defense plans and planning. This is the whole point of joining NATO. There was a gray area before that with Finland - and I hope that it will soon also affect Sweden - that NATO could not take them into account in its defense planning, no matter how close cooperation we had," he said.

"Given that if they are members of NATO – as Finland already is and Sweden will likely soon be too - they are fully integrated into security planning and are immediately slotted into, for instance, NATO's air and missile defensive cover, as NATO has a common air defense."

"However, the same is true of land in defense planning territory and sea operations - how are all these operations of the joint forces on land, sea and air planned and carried out, probably also in cyberspace, space and information space, because actually, the battle space is six-dimensional," he continued.

The development of the EDF goes hand-in-hand with NATO vision

Stoicescu also said that the ongoing and far-ranging development of the domestic EDF is in line with NATO's broader defense plans and vision, so Estonia's acquisition of new military capabilities can only complement the alliance and its capabilities.

"Nor can we hold separate defense plans; we have the NATO defensive plans. What we do carry out discretely is our defense force development - what are the kind of defense force capabilities, military capabilities etc. we are creating with the army, navy, and the air force. We do this independently and this is also our contribution to our common defense, " he outlined. "But when we come to talk about NATO's defense plans, these are joint. Plus they concern all allies who contribute."

"I an certain that by the time of the Vilnius summit, on July 11-12, these defense and security plans will be finalized. Knowing how big a task this is, it can be assumed that as of now this work is almost completed. Let's just say that the final touches are still being done, but there are a lot of important questions which can no longer go unanswered. Since this is such an important job, it must be done with excellence, before it finally gets approved by the member states, so the quality of these plans should not be in any doubt."

French military contingent arriving at Paldiski. Source: EDF / mil.ee

Lithuania also satisfied

The renewed NATO defensive plans were equally welcomed by Laurynas Kasčiunas, chairman of the Defense Committee at the Lithuanian parliament, the Seimas. 

The Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, is hosting the NATO summit in July.

Lithuanian national broadcaster LRT reported its assessment following a presentation from the commander of that country's defense forces, Lt Gen.Valdemaras Rupšys.

"There is a lot of good news, that's a fact," he added. Kasčiunas also stressed, as Stoicescu had done, that he could not speak more precisely about the plans due to their sensitivity.

Saulius Skvernelis, a member Seimas' national defense committee, said that what he has seen from NATO inspires optimism. "There has been a change in mindset. The plans concern response, protection and deterrence from the very outset," Skvernelis said. "Clearly, the biggest challenge is to fulfill these plans with substance, that is, with weapons and human resources," he added.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that plans for the defense of the Baltic states will be more detailed and concrete than ever before, though their content will still remain classified, LRT reported.

Lithuanian general: Key issue is speed

Gen. Rupšys said after the meeting with members of the Seimas that the central component of the plan is its rapidity of response.

NATO's plans also correspond to current threats and are sufficient to deter an enemy and protect the Baltic States. The resources planned for the defense of the Baltic States also correspond to realistic potential threats, and they will be increased in direct proportion to any rise in those threats, he said.

"When threats grow, so do our capabilities. Our allies, NATO member states, have made a clear decision to develop them, plus they also have sufficient capabilities. I have no doubt that they will do so," Rupšys said.

Once the regional defense plans have been approved, the next step is to start developing tactical plans and developing the capabilities to implement them, the Lithuanian general added. The division being created in Lithuania forms a part of these plans, Rupšys added.


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Editor: Mait Ots, Andrew Whyte, Helen Wright

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