According to Estonian Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform), rather than having an allied brigade permanently stationed in the country, Estonia prefers to use the necessary resources to develop its own defense capabilities. Pevkur also believes Estonian society would not be prepared for the construction of another large training area like Nursipalu.
"Our primary interest is, that Estonian taxpayers' money goes into strengthening Estonia's defense capabilities. If we are talking about a permanent brigade of 3,000 to 4,000 fighters, then the deployment of a permanent brigade actually also means bringing their families. It means building schools - we are talking about somewhere in the region of 10,000 people, who would need to be accommodated, who would need to be provided with job opportunities, kindergarten places and so on and so forth," Pevkur told ERR in Vilnius on Wednesday.
"Perhaps we have taken the direction in our defense architecture, that we would rather prefer to have a permanent presence in the form of a NATO-led battalion. Estonia has more than 2,000 Allied troops permanently stationed in Estonia anyway," he added.
The defense minister also stressed that the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) are constantly undergoing training on how to integrate as many Allies as possible, including the British Brigade, in order to defend Estonia.
"Because in any case, if there is a real conflict, one brigade will not be enough, we will need more Allies. We need to have real training exercises and work with the Allies according to the defense plan [which outline] how the Allies would reach us. Of course, we are also working every day to get as much equipment and ammunition as possible supplied to Estonia," Pevkur said.
Pevkur was asked whether the permanent presence of an Allied brigade might force Estonia to think more about how to cope with a larger number of Allied units in a crisis situation.
"Once again, a permanent brigade in Estonia would mean having to build up all the infrastructure. We would, of course, have to create much larger training areas. Then we would have to talk about the need to expand the Central Polygon. We would have to talk about the need to create new training areas. We have not planned for that at the moment. After all, we have planned for Nursipalu, the Central polygon and Soodla - these are the developments."
Pevkur was then asked about the fact that, unlike Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have decided to have a permanently deployed Allied brigade on their territory.
"Each country has its own feelings and opinions, but once again: from a defense perspective, we actually see the three Baltic states as a common area of operations, which is both sensible and necessary - in air defense, on land and at sea. Joint Baltic cooperation is inevitable. And when you look at the fact that the Latvians are establishing a training area of more than 25,000 hectares in southern Latvia, their capabilities are certainly greater. I don't think Estonian society is ready at the moment to discuss whether we are prepared to build another Nursipalu, but twice as large."
"Once again, I would prefer that if we have our taxpayers' money going on defense, we focus first and foremost on what Estonia needs militarily, especially ammunition and our own new capabilities. This is certainly more important from the perspective of how to use Estonian taxpayers' money," the minister said.
Pevkur also said, that this decision has been made in cooperation with the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF). The minister pointed out, that the recommendation of the head of the EDF is for Estonia to focus on developing its own defense capabilities. "Because this is the quickest force that we have, starting with the Defense League (Kaitseliit) and ending with our First and Second Infantry Brigades. That's what we're developing, that's where we want our men to be, and our fighters to have very good weaponry and very good security equipment."
"In the meantime, we are counting on the fact that the Allies will be here and training, and we will train with them," Pevkur said.
Editor: Michael Cole