Kaljulaid on Victory Day: Broader approach to security needed ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

President Kersti Kaljulaid at the Victory Day ceremony in Rakvere. June 23, 2017.
President Kersti Kaljulaid at the Victory Day ceremony in Rakvere. June 23, 2017. Source: (mil.ee)

President Kersti Kaljulaid said in her speech at Friday's Victory Day parade in Rakvere that what is needed in Estonia is a much broader approach to security. ERR News is publishing her speech in full.

Dear Estonians, dear allies! Good people here in Rakvere and in your homes throughout Estonia!

Take a look around this square. What you see is a sense of security — members of our Estonian Defence League, who are standing here in their free time, side by side with our allies.

Estonia's security is guaranteed and today this guarantee is more steadfast than ever. We are strong, we are visibly ready to defend ourselves, and we are not afraid. There is no reason to be.

NATO ensures peace. NATO trustworthiness has been tested by the Cold War and is being tested today by the international situation in our region as well as farther away. NATO is persuasive and credible, always appropriately prepared — that's why NATO deterrence is always operational and has always functioned.

Our politicians and diplomats have made the right strategic decisions. This has not always been easy — we have 22 years of experience serving on foreign missions. The decision to defend the security and independence of our state through international cooperation, which means far from our own doorstep, has been correct, even obvious. We have created a sufficiently strong foundation that enables us to cope with the tensions that surround us and sudden changes in the world. We have done everything possible to make sure that the fate of country will never again be dependent on only one person, state or organization.

General [Aleksander] Einseln, who passed away this year, insisted that, as we develop our national defense, we not focus narrowly on our own territorial defense capability. He knew that, today, every battle requires international cooperation. He and his colleagues laid the foundation for our capability to work in an international environment.

The members of our defense forces who have fallen far from home fighting to safeguard Estonian independence did not die in vain. They gave their lives so that we could prepare to celebrate the centennial of the Republic of Estonia in peace. We, in turn, are responsible for making sure that our grandchildren have the opportunity to celebrate the bicentennial.

Every decision made by the government or parliament of this country must bear this responsibility and proceed with the knowledge that there are people, members of our generation, who have given their lives for Estonia's future. Even today, our mission soldiers are defending Estonia's future and risking their lives and wellbeing every day. Even today, those who have been injured on Defence League exercises are recovering in hospitals. And even today, our men and women are serving on civilian missions in various crisis areas. Against this backdrop, do we have the right to make decisions that are based on other, short-sighted or narrower interests than the future of Estonia? We do not.

The existence of a military defense is one of the main preconditions for surviving in the world. However, countries are increasingly discovering that strength alone is not always enough when the enemy is a terrorist or hacker.

A sentry cannot be stationed on every bridge, and an armed guard cannot be in the passenger seat of every car — because that's exactly what those whose aim to sow insecurity and chaos want.

What are needed are knowledge, common sense and resourcefulness. What is needed is the ability to recognize an attack even when no weapons are involved. What are needed are international agreements that can help us react to these attacks while not putting the independence and sovereignty of our country at risk. What is needed is a much broader approach to security that includes all sectors of community life. Today, appearing before members of the Estonian Defence League standing in formation, it is appropriate to talk about broad and comprehensive security.

Estonian security is strengthened by a coherent civil society in which informed citizen activists play an important role in the promotion of safety and the sense of security. Security begins with each one of us. Just as we are responsible for ourselves, our families and communities in good times, we also have an independent role to play in crisis situations, whether they are accidents, natural catastrophes or threats to our security.

We must all know how to prevent accidents — and we must all know how to behave when accidents still happen.

Through the educational system, we must promote our readiness to act independently, to seek help and, when help arrives, to take responsibility, just as we contribute to our readiness to defend Estonia against military threats through our national defense system.

Not everyone belongs to the Estonian Defence League or the Women's Voluntary Defence Organization [Naiskodukaitse], although that is where we can acquire the best skills and necessary self-confidence to cope with any accidents, should they occur.

Yet each of us plays a role in our security, beginning with ensuring the safety of our families and making sure help is available when something does happen. Personal preparedness and the daily work performed by ambulance teams, police officers and rescue workers must be supplemented by a national notification system, reserves and readiness. It must be supplemented by knowing how to organize an evacuation from a danger zone, how our hospitals can assist a larger than usual number of people, how our agencies, ministries and local governments participate in controlling and eliminating any crisis situations.

Accidents happen when bad circumstances coincide. However, an effective response begins with readiness, constant training and exercises. Goodwill is not enough for coping with a crisis when it arises.

In every crisis there are the visible heroes and those who are simply doing their jobs. Both are necessary, but the more well-prepared people there are, who can calmly do their jobs during a moment of crisis, the faster people's sense of security will be restored — and we will know how to stand up for ourselves in every anxious situation.

The Estonian Defence League and Women's Voluntary Defence Organization play an important role in providing a sense of security. Luckily there are more and more such people. The problem is that very often the same people participate in a number of security-related activities. And in the case of a greater emergency, they might not be able to be in more than one place at a time.

What's the solution? We must find a way to involve more of the citizenry. The knowledge and skills taught by the voluntary organizations involved in ensuring a greater sense of security are part of the personal safety and sense of security that we provide to our families. This could be an important motivator for getting involving and learning.

Achieving a sense of security requires cooperation. We cannot have important issues roaming the corridors of various ministries without any advocates. We must spend more time thinking together, but we also need lots of resources, which in the course of planning narrow budgetary strategies, is often ignored.

To a great extent, these are necessary resources that we would rather not think about every day — stockpiles of medicines and bandages, hazmat suits, and radiation monitors — materials that are acquired in the hope that we won't need them.

And yet, great and irreparable damage can be caused if we don't have these materials when we need them. We hope that our defense forces will not have to fire their weapons against a real enemy in the defence of Estonian territory and yet we acquire those weapons.

The same applies to the other infrastructure and technology related to security — of course, we hope that we will never need them. But we cannot risk not having them. Of course, just as we have our NATO allies, and together we compensate for each other's capability shortcomings by shrewdly specialising, we also have partners involved in broader security. For environmental risks, we have an agreement with the countries in the Baltic Sea Region, and we have the EU solidarity clause, which enables us, when necessary, to obtain equipment and materials to cope with various risks, the likelihood of which in our region is very low, but not impossible.

Just like our defence, security and foreign policy experts are working every day on the frontline of diplomacy to manage military risks, so too our diplomacy plays a significant role in guaranteeing broader security through international cooperation, ensuring that we and our partners are equipped with the essentials in case of emergency.

We must think every day about this broadest level of security, of which military national defence is only one aspect, although an extremely important one.

An unstable neighbour has forced us and our allies to decide and act quickly, to ensure we are not alone or in danger. However, the thread of life usually gets tangled locally, unexpectedly and without attracting as much attention. Society requires constant assurance that we can cope with crisis situations. And coping with everyday misfortunes provides us that surety.

In this way, self-confidence develops — the knowledge that we can cope with even very serious crises. In turn, self-confidence and the ability to care for ourselves and others play an important role in our military deterrence.

The various threats from the wide world are less alarming if we know that we are ready, can rely on each other and cope. Broad security extends from our homes to NATO headquarters, and we all have role to play in it. We are protected. But we must safeguard ourselves and Estonia every day.

Let's safeguard Estonia! Long live the Estonian Defence League!

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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