Renewed: 12.10.2013, 18:19

24 February 2012 15:04

Terras: Estonia´s independence not to be taken for granted

The speech of Brigadier General Riho Terras, Commander in Chief Estonian Defence Forces, addressing the Independence Day military parade.

The solid bronze statue of Swedish King Gustav Adolf stands by the convecation hall at Tartu University. During the course of a war 380 years ago he established the charter of our Alma Mater. A few months later the king fell at the battle of Lützen. History knows Gustav Adolf as a famous strategist but unbeknownst to him due to his establishing a university in Tartu, he ended up giving his royal assurance to Estonian independence.

Academia Gustaviana gave Tartu academic freedom. The opportunity to freely express your ideas opened up Tartu to European ideas.

University and freedom have always belonged together. Ideological freedom, a thirst for knowledge, standing up for your beliefs are qualities which reflect the spirit of Tartu. We would not have a culture nor a nation without those beliefs.

Tartu graduates were the voice of the people during the awaking of the nation. Without the graduates of Tartu University the establishment of an independent Estonia 94 years ago nor clearly the regained independence of our country 20 years ago would not have been possible.

Freedom and an independent Estonia are sometimes taken for granted and become a part of daily life. As we take our children to school, set our dining tables or light our fireplaces we rarely think of Estonian independence. It is only when things are not right do we remember and think upon our independence. Conversely we also think of our nation when we the people individually or our nation are the benefactors of exceptional prosperity.

We should actually think of Estonian independence more than a few times a year because the Estonia as a nation is something very special for all of us.

A complicated history has formed us into a wise nation which knows how to protect our ways and language.

The ideas and the people that brought about the birth of Estonia, the global trends and situations were unique. As soon as our independence was declared, our nation had to stand and prove itself, in armed conflict during our War of Independence. Luckily we were not alone and had allies in our fight with our enemies.

The Royal Navy turned the situation in the Baltic Sea to our favour. The Estonian forces would have had a hard time holding the front without the assistance of the Finns, Swedes, Danes, Americans and French. It was very important then as it is exceedingly important today to maintain our relationships with our allies.

The War of Independence was one of ultimate survival, a heroic epic but mostly it was still a war. A war that brought about misery, broken families and lost lives.

The independence war fed our beliefs. Our belief in ourselves, belief in our future, belief in the chosen path to justice. The faith in the nation we created. With a sense of duty, readiness and bravery to protect our nation.

The critical days of the independence war brought about a change in public attitudes as well as with volunteer university students and school boys. Youth, hardly men went to the independence war in corpore from their classes, associations and fraternities because they believed in a free Estonia. This same faithfulness exists to this day. I truly believe this.

Yesterday when I met with the students of Tallinn # 21 high school and the Tallinn English College, I saw belief in Estonia. Because of the victory of the War of Independence, I see today, this same belief in the soldiers, sailors, defence league members and university students in this parade on the banks of the Emajõgi.

Estonia must exist and must be protected every hour of every day!

Military readiness is ensured by a strong non-commissioned officer cadre, senior non-commissioned officers with war experience give military units strength and officers confidence in every situation. I have served with many of them in various units; I have seen them in battle. These men do not bend, these do not tire.

Estonia can be proud of its officers. The lion’s share of Estonia’s young officers has received their knowledge and experience at the Estonian Military Academy right here in Tartu. The Estonian National Defence College and the Baltic Defence College have found themselves a firm and supportive home here in this university town. It is a fertile field for the growth of intelligence.

Estonian military personnel are world-class. This has been stated by all of our allies who have been next to our troops in battle. Trust is most important in battle and difficult situations. We have the trust of our brothers in arms. Estonia is trusted. We are trusted more than our population, country size or economic situation would ever expect.

Estonia’s contribution to NATO’s most important military operation has not gone without notice. The blood and sweat of Estonian soldiers in Afghanistan is tied directly to NATO’s decision to continue to indefinitely protect the skies of Estonia.

The economic crisis has forced many of our allies into critically reviewing their expenditure on defence. But I am greatly happy that in the history of Estonia the military national defence currently exceeds 2% of gross domestic product margins. This truly shows our credibility. This is a sign to our allies that we do not discount our national defence.

Estonia is the frontier border for Europe and its borders must be protected, there is no other way. A look at past history shows that the map of Europe is diffuse and answers the question, is security and national defence important to us. A positive answer assures us that our efforts and contributions to national defence are well warranted.

In these complex economic times NATO and the European Union must find a way to organize our security that it does not jeopardize our interests or values. We have to have smart cooperation. The founder of Tartu University, Gustav Adolf proved conclusively that battles can be won with limited resources. You simply need confidence, understanding and openness.

Since the War of Independence our military has been a military open to the people, with our officers and soldiers being represented by individuals from all walks of life. Today’s national security ensures that, our military is endeared to the people, because national security involves the nation. The Defence League has a special role in maintaining a strong bond with the people as do the former active duty reservists.

Cooperation means openness. Year to year we have moved towards a broader based openness in National defence. In such an important area as is security for our nation and its people. Our nation is too small to have everyone deal in their own speciality areas. Cooperation advises us and gives us strength which is hard to break. Estonian security is the honour of every civilian. Compulsory military service is honourable. It is an honour to serve in the military. You have to be honest to yourself and to others. You must be honest in your work, your service. This must be self apparent.

Estonian independence and freedom has never been nor never should be taken for granted. The Estonian nation was created for the protection and the freedom of the Estonian people.

Vivat, crescat, floreat Estoniae in aeternum!

(Live, grow ,florish Estonia forever!)

Long live the Republic of Estonia!

Headquarters of the Estonian Defence Forces, 717 1900, mil[at]mil.ee, Juhkentali 58, EE15007, Tallinn, Estonia.

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