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Estonian Defense Forces' commander announces resignation

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Martin Herem
Martin Herem Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Head of the Estonian Defense Forces Gen. Martin Herem will step down from his position this summer approximately 18 months early citing "the right time to make a change" for Estonia's defense.

Herem has informed Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform), Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform), and President Alar Karis, the newspaper Eesti Päevaleht (EPL), which broke the story, reported.

"I'm in Brussels at the moment, where I'm doing my job as chief of defense, but I can say that yes, it's true. Instead of leaving in 2025, I'm going to go in 2024, mainly because I think it's the right time to make a change," Herem told ERR on Tuesday. 

"Everything is fine in the Defense Forces, everything is fine with me, I am under no pressure. But I don't think it's necessary to extend my time here for another year," he added.

The general explained the government extended his initial term by two years in October 2022 due to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

"At that point, I was looking more towards stability. Now we have a pretty stable situation. And once again, this change will have to be made in a year's time anyway, so what am I procrastinating about? Perhaps the situation will not be so stable then," Herem said.

Speaking to EPL, he said his decision was made on "what is best for Estonia's military defense".

"Today's threat assessments give reason to believe that there will be no aggression against Estonia in the next year or two, which is the term of office extended by the government. This is why today is the right time for a change of leadership so that the Defense Forces can prepare for the threat themselves," he told the newspaper.

He confirmed to ERR he has no disagreements with anyone and there is no conflict or scandal around his early resignation.

"That there is no scandal, no. Strange as it may seem in Estonia, there is no scandal. I have done my five years. And now seems like a good time to make the switch so that we can move on to the next phase with the Defense Forces. The Defense Force itself is in better shape and better developed than [Ott] Tänak's rally car. So in that respect, I don't see any failure here. I just think it's time to move on to something else after more than 30 years of service," Herem explained.

Asked about his plans after leaving the EDF, Herem said: "I don't have any offers, I'm concentrating on being the commander of the Defense Forces. But I have a lot of hobbies and a lot of other qualities, so I will find something to do."

Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur also told EPL disagreements are not the cause of Herem's early departure.

"It was his personal decision to give the new leader a chance to start building a force on the new capacity developments. Herem saw that, with the rotation scheme coming, there was no point in adding another year to the cycle," the minister explained.

Discussions about Herem's successor will now begin, Pevkur said. The decision should be approved by February 24.

Herem's extension was in place until December 2025. He became commander of the Defense Forces in December 2018.

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Editor: Mait Ots, Helen Wright

Source: Eesti Päevaleht

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