An internal defense reserve is to be established in order to maintain public order in crisis situations; this reserve will be made up primarily of military police as well as reservists who have undergone infantry training. Should the government allocate the money for the establishment of this reserve, a total of approximately €20 million over the next four years will be spent on gear and training.
As the capabilities of special and rapid response units needs to be developed, equipment needs to be expanded and updated, counterintelligence and border defense strengthened, the threat prevention and combating capabilities of internal security agencies improved and general resistance capabilities increased for times of crisis in order to strengthen internal security, an internal defense reserve must be established, Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE) said on Tuesday.
"Reservists will be involved first and foremost in maintaining public order in situations where police presence needs to be increased and rotations need to be established in order to fulfill tasks," Helme said. "Examples of such situations would include the containment of mass disarray, the defense of critical service objects, and the strengthening of border defense."
According to the minister, Estonia currently lacks the capacity to maintain order in case of larger-scale mass disorder, or conduct bigger evacuations.
"Let's imagine for a second that apartment buildings in Lasnamäe have to be evacuated following a big accident," he described. "In situations like this, we need to ensure that people receive food, toiletries, light, heat. We currently lack the capacity for this."
According to Ministry of the Interior Deputy Secretary General for Rescue Policy and Crisis Management Viola Murd, internal security requires additional capacity in the event of unpredictable and large-scale crises.
"In the Ministry of the Interior's area of government, we already possess sufficient capability for operating in normal conditions," Murd said. "In emergencies such as wildfires, storms and floods, we team up with partners in the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF), the Estonian Defence League (Kaitseliit) and volunteers. But we need additional capacity in order to cope with major crises."
The deputy secretary general noted that the reserve has to aid in coping with both internal crises as well as in situations that crop up as a result of the influencing activity of foreign powers, such as the Bronze Night, and covert aggression from another country, as happened in Ukraine.
As existing police and rescue services are sufficient for handling everyday situations and there is no point in establishing a new professional unit, a reserve will be established that will include reservists who have completed conscription training, primarily military police and infantry, but also former police officers as well as graduates from the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences.
700 reservists over four years
The future reserve's projected expenses for the next four years (2020-2023) total €19.7 million, or nearly €5 million per year. The biggest expense will be equipment, which would be similar to that used by the Border Guard's rapid response units.
A total of 700 people will be trained over the next four years, or approximately 160 people per year, Murd said, but noted that prior training will be required; nobody will be trained from scratch.
According to Helme, there should be no trouble in finding these 700 people, even if they have to have completed conscription training first.
The government has to approve the application submitted for funding for the establishment of the reserve from the state budget, but he noted that it was "very likely" that the money would be allocated.
"I can't say that this €19.7 million is already in my pocket, but the application has been submitted, it will be taken into account in budget negotiations, and the odds are very good that this reserve won't remain just an idea," the minister said.
The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) will be responsible for the formation and training exercises of the future internal security reserve. The PPA will likewise be responsible for the training thereof.
Editor: Aili Vahtla