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President stresses need for broad defence strategy in Victory Day speech

Kersti Kaljulaid speaking at the Victory Day parade in Tallinn on Saturday
Kersti Kaljulaid speaking at the Victory Day parade in Tallinn on Saturday Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

In her speech marking Victory Day (võidpüha) in Estonia, yesterday, Saturday, President Kersti Kaljulaid stressed that the country's readiness and responsiveness needn't be confined to the military sphere, but should extend into other areas, including medical services and vital infrastructure.

"The military does not need to consider whether hospitals will be able to cope in the event of an exponential increase in number of patients, or how chaos can be avoided when vital services are disturbed," she said, speaking at the parade held at Tallinn's Song Festival Grounds.

Ms. Kaljulaid outlined a total of six broad areas of defence, of which military capability was but one. She noted that, whilst positive progress has been made in this broad-based approach to defence, more needed to be done than simply relying on innovations such as smart documents, volunteer initiatives and crisis-time innovations, which means more money needs to be spent.

''In this light, can we really be satisfied with a situation where, for every seventy three euros invested in the defence forces, the planned total investment in all the other areas combined amounts to just one euro?'' she asked.

''Perhaps we should increase that euro spending rather than reducing the seventy three [on defence spending],'' she suggested.

Defence needs to be discussed as election issue

The President added that she expected substantial discussions to take place in the Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu) ahead of the general election next year (Parliament is currently in recess) concerning the importance of defence spending and its application in a broader sense.

Given that defence spending is a given in any case, Ms. Kaljulaid averred, this is as much a question of price, as of principle; she went on to ponder whether it should be raised to 2.5% or even as much as 4% of GDP (NATO requirements are currently that a member state's spending on defence should be at 2% of GDP, a figure which Estonia has met).

The alternative seemed to be accepting the current defence capability of Estonia as it is, which is to say that ''comprehensive national defence mainly exists on paper,'' Kaljulaid believes.

This would however need to be on the condition that it was something up for negotiation with the electorate in the run up to the 2019 elections, against the backdrop of the current global political climate of better defence and yet paradoxically less stability, in her view.

Estonians taking ownership of their country

Other themes teased out in the President's speech included the praiseworthy quality that Estonians have in sticking together in adversity, be it in the face of the forest fires that have blighted the country so far this summer following the unusually hot and dry spring, or other more substantial threats.

Ultimately, she said, Estonia needs to forge its own destiny in the world, but is more than capable of rising to that challenge.

''In a complicated world, we have only one compass. The needle of this compass orients itself according to a magnetic field of universal values: freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law,'' Ms. Kaljulaid said.

''As a small nation, we must not deviate from these values, not even once. We must not choose sides in particular disputes, but rather remain true to our compass. This will ensure that our decisions are always comprehensible to our friends, even in conditions where their own compass may be tilted in the direction of their own interests, for whatever reason,'' she added.

The full text of Ms. Kaljulaid's speech can be found here.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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