Exemplifying the rapid development of Estonia's military defense capabilities, the country's acquisition of large quantities of ammunition continued in 2023. At a press conference Monday, Estonian Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) said that around 100 truckloads of ammunition have arrived in Estonia this year alone.
"The rapid development of Estonia's national defense is unavoidable because of the complex security situation caused by Russia's war of aggression. This year for the first time, Estonian taxpayers have entrusted more than €1 billion to military defense, more than half of which has been channeled into procurements to directly increase our defense capabilities," said Pevkur.
According to the Estonian Minister of Defense, following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, decisions have been made that have led to Estonian investing twice as much in ammunition stockpiles as had been spent during the previous thirty years, following the restoration of independence.
Over the next four years, around a quarter of Estonia's defense budget will be spent on ammunition. A significant number of ammunition storage facilities will also be built. "It will be difficult to put this on display at a parade, but its impact on our defense is crucial," Pevkur said.
Other major contracts signed this year include those for the IRIS-T medium-range air defense system, loitering munitions, and major procurements of wheeled armored vehicles and military vehicles. This year, in addition to various batches of ammunition, Estonia has also received six more K9 self-propelled howitzers and naval mines, enhancing its maritime capabilities. Anti-ship missile systems are also expected to arrive soon, which will increase Estonia's long-range precision strike capabilities.
The wartime composition of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) has been increased to 43,700 combatants. This included the important element of doubling the size of territorial defense to 20,000 troops. To achieved this, the six-week territorial defense reservist training exercise Ussisõnad (Parseltongue) took place from August to October, covering the whole of Estonia in a blanket of security. In May, exercise Spring Storm (Kevadtorm) 2023 took place, with nearly 14,000 conscripts, reservists, active servicemen, members of the Defense League (Kaitseliit), and allied soldiers from eleven countries all participating.
"Estonia's independent defense capability is supported by our membership in NATO and the presence of NATO allies in Estonia," Pevkur said.
"We have signed a ten-year cooperation agreement with the United Kingdom, the lead country of the NATO Battlegroup in Estonia. France has made its presence in Estonia permanent and we have units from the United States, the world's strongest military force," the defense minister said.
This year Estonia continued to provide military assistance to Ukraine, sending nearly €250 million-worth of arms and other necessary equipment, whilst also spearheading several international initiatives to support Ukraine.
"Ukraine's fight for freedom can only succeed if the allies continue to support the Ukrainians with real and substantial aid [amounting to] 0.25 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) per year. It is not just Ukraine that is at stake, but also the security of Estonia, the transatlantic community and the wider world," Pevkur said.
Editor: Michael Cole