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New Defense League chief: Support for Ukraine in all ways must continue

Maj. Gen. Ilmar Tamm.
Maj. Gen. Ilmar Tamm. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Ukraine has no alternative but to stand firm in the face of Russian aggression, says new Defense League (Kaitseliit) commander, Major General Ilmar Tamm, adding that Estonia and all Western allies must continue to provide support in all conceivable ways.

Appearing on ETV politics show "Esimene stuudio" Wednesday, Maj. Gen. Tamm, who took up his post last week after replacing Maj. Gen. Riho Ühtegi, whose term had ended, said that: "The activities we in Estonia can prepare for give us a much greater advantage," noting that a direct parallel between Estonia and Ukraine cannot be drawn inasmuch as Estonia is a NATO member state, and Ukraine not yet.

"The message that we must state boldly is that if the Russian Federation wants to a war against any of the countries on NATO's Eastern Flank, the line in the sand that we will not attack any targets located on the territory within the Russian Federation will not apply," he went on.

In the current situation, every delay leads to a high price for Ukraine.

"Our job is to provide support in any viable way. Sometimes it is very unfair that, if we delay our decisions somewhere, there will be a heavy price to be paid n Ukraine. Naturally, Russia had also underestimated [Ukraine in] its original plan, and has certainly suffered losses throughout this war," he continued.

"The major risk is that Ukrainian society and morale must hold out and bed supported. It is tough to predict to what extent this support will be received. On the other hand, all this mobilized resources also require training," he continued.

Ukraine's armed forces aim to mobilize a further 500,000 personnel.

At home, the Defense League's best and brightest, along with those from the regular Estonian Defense Forces and various other institutions are drawing their conclusions from the war in Ukraine, conclusions which should be included in Estonia's plans, according to Tamm. The decisiveness and the will that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has shown is one example of this.

Finland's accession, and Sweden's pending accession, to NATO have given Estonia and the whole alliance a major boost, he added, noting that people in this region can perhaps better understand why it is necessary to support Ukraine than some Central European countries, where supporting Ukraine is linked to domestic political issues.

Nevertheless, Russia's goals have far from evaporated, while on the contrary that country continues to invest resources in achieving that aim.

This makes support from Europe and North America all the more needed, in order to avoid the balance tipping in Russia's favor at a time when Ukraine's resources, including human resources, continue to dwindle – with the second anniversary of the full-scale invasion just two months away.

Fortunately motivation within the Defense League remains high, he added, both in terms of Ukraine and in preparedness on the domestic front.

While a Russian attack on Estonia next year seems "unlikely," Tamm said, given the extent to which it is tied down in Ukraine, this certainly does not give any cause for complacency.

The rest of the interview dealt with continuity between Tamm and his predecessor, Riho Ühtegi, which would remain in place and with no major changes – Tamm mentioned an introduction of some new skills and boosted confidence as goals – and recent proposals for a civil-military defense forces.

On the latter point, Tamm said that if this had not been viable or desirable so far, then there very likely there hasn't been a serious need for it, adding that the civilian and military spheres are very separate things.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja

Source: 'Esimene stuudio,' interviewer Andres Kuusk.

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