Defense minister: Ussisõnad has improved Estonia's defensive capabilities

The reservist training exercise
The reservist training exercise "Ussisõnad." Source: Estonian Defense Forces (EDF)

Estonian Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) said that the reservist training exercise Ussisõnad (Parseltongue) was a success and has improved Estonia's defensive capabilities. While 7,300 of the 13,200 reservists invited to take part, showed up for the exercise, the size of the Defense Forces has increased overall from 26,000 to 36,000.

 "The overall conclusion is that Exercise Ussisõnad was a success. We significantly improved our defense capabilities, but we also learnt a lot," Pevkur said at a Ministry of Defense press conference.

Pevkur added, that it will be possible to improve on any of the shortcomings that may have been identified during Ussisõnad, in future training exercises.

"The goal of having such a comprehensive defense network across all of Estonia, in the right locations places, with the tasks assigned to them by the Commander of the Defense Forces and the Commander of the Defense League (Kaitseliit), has been fulfilled," Pevkur said.

Gen. Martin Herem, Commander of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF), said that the move to increase the size of Estonia's territorial defense forces had been a success.

"On July 18, 2022, the Commander of the Defense Forces issued specific instructions for conducting this operation, and the Defense Resources Agency, National Center for Defense Investments, Defense League and Defense Forces began taking concrete steps. A year later, as the Commander of the Defense Forces, I can say that the size of the Defense Forces, which was 26,000 at the beginning of September, is now 36,000. We have a territorial defense force of 20,000," said Herem.

Herem said that of the 13,200 reservists invited to the exercise, just over 7,344 turned up. The aim had been to involve around 10,000 reservists.

At the same time, Herem pointed out that an additional 10,000 reserve troops have now been organized in terms of equipment, tasks and units. "The 2,700 that are missing is not really a very significant number because we have all these people and have a system in place," Herem said.

According to Herem, there has also been an improved understanding of how to work in conjunction with the Police and Border Guard  Board (PPA). There was also reassurance that, when it comes to the non-material support for the new units, including accommodation and catering, the local environment can be relied upon.

Speaking about the quality of the units, Herem said the overall picture was good. However, he said the amount of reservists in attendance was only satisfactory. "I don't see a really positive improvement, but I also don't see any regression either," he said.

"The small things, which need to be improved, would not prevent the use of these forces for military defense. So, I think we should be satisfied," Herem said.

According to Herem, 19 percent of those called up were discharged, about half on medical grounds.

The EDF chief said it was important in future to make practical improvements in the delivery of notifications, summoning reservists to participate in training exercises, to ensure they are seen by the individuals to whom they are addressed.

Herem said that those types of issues will be worked on during various training exercises, which are set to take place over the next three years.

Maj. Gen. Riho Ühtegi, commander of the Estonian Defense League (Kaitseliit), said that 2,600 members of the Defense League took part in the exercise.

"We took nearly 10,000 men from the reserves, who had not been to reserve training exercises for years and within ten days formed them into units, which in the last phase of the exercise, were able to independently solve the tasks set for them. In order to make it a success, we really involved quite a large number of Defense League and Defense Force members," Ühtegi said.

"The biggest concern had been whether we would be able to build teams in such a short time. Overwhelmingly, those teams did emerge. In terms of territorial defense, we fulfilled the tasks that are assigned to territorial defense in the context of war or crisis," Ühtegi said.

Ussisõnad was the Estonian Defense Forces' (EDF) largest ever military reservist training exercise. A total of nearly 10,000 reservists were expected to take part in the exercise, which began in late August and concluded on October 8. Further training will take place in the years to come.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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