Renewed: 11.11.2013, 16:13

21 January 2013 16:11

Riho Terras: Military security through wide-angled lens

Riho Terras: Military security through wide-angled lens Riho Terras: Military security through wide-angled lens

Brigadier General Riho Terras, Commander of Defence Forces Estonia
Published in Postimees; January 21, 2013

Many places in the world are at war and Estonia as a member of the European Union and NATO is participating in these wars. Consequently we must deal with matters of national security in an international and local context. Current larger conflicts have a long history, confrontations with momentums lasting through the ages, without ending, erupting outbreaks, constantly repeating. The people of these countries who have been located within artificial borders are seeking self-determination or ways to free themselves from autocratic rule. Afghanistan, Syria, Mali and the Middle East are currently crisis areas of greater concern.

Question, what does NATO and the European Union stand for today and in the future: which and how many military conflicts outside the European continent are being regulated and in what capacity? Whether its military intervention, peace keeping, humanitarian assistance, education and instruction or anything other as well as altogether much more than civilian capabilities would allow. Yes, ours and Estonia’s decision is do we want to assist and if so, how do we do so to solve the problem.

The current events in Mali confirm that radical Islamism finds continued support for cultivating and enlarging their membership and ideas via governing vacuums and unsuccessful national organizations. It is quite probable that Mali will become so-called smouldering conflict. For this reason our military actions against the Magreb Al-Qaeda and other radical groups must be decisive.

As we have learned from our Iraqi and Afghanistan operations, military operations are not enough to resolve situations. We need to analyze the situation as a whole and maximize our efforts that the offered solution to stabilizing the situation includes all involved and their interests. In regards to Mali the question and its answer lies in looking for Touareg autonomy.

At the same time we have to consider that during the ISAF operation in Afghanistan, in working with NATO members and partner countries, has given us immeasurable experience militarily as well as politically, while several larger states have changed their attitudes towards military strength especially in the use of the army in conflicts. There has been a substantial lowering of the demarcation point by the decision makers of when to send in military into conflict areas, regardless of the apparent need. After more than 10 years of military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan the price tag is very difficult to explain to the taxpayers and new military ventures increasing harder to sell in the current world economic situation. At the same the power positions between the members of the United Nations Security Council have cemented and the international community’s response to massive loss of life in conflicts constantly collide with the vested interests of China and Russia.

From an Estonian point of view we require due to our location and our history a clear defence policy that suits us and gives the confidence to the Estonian people that we would be able to defend ourselves in the event of an aggression. Basically there are two possible directions – resolving conflicts far from home with NATO or the United Nations and an internal defence force – weaved into a single Estonian security force – and defence policy. Last year’s Defence Force 10 year development plan takes into account both the gravity of the situation and gives the defence forces a goal where by current security risks can be weighed and defensive measures developed.

It is imperative to remember that the nation of Estonia participates in international military operations primarily with one purpose: to ensure our own security and defend relationships with our allies as well as having remarkably well and realistically developed our defences via the experience that we have received through these operations in the last 10 years.

The still powerful US, European Union and Japan are increasingly tangled in finding solutions for the heated economic and social problems of their individual countries. The desire to be actively involved in foreign politics has left primarily economic security suffering. A vivid example are the operations by the shores of Somalia where the US, EU, China and Russia have been jointly participating.

The United States has turned away from Europe toward Asia in the hopes that the friendly co-existence in Europe will able to sort out its own problems. There are many competitors to the US in Asia that deserve a high profile attention economically, politically as well as in defence policy. Many experts are predicting that 2013 will be the year of confrontation between Barack Obama and opposing China´s Communist Party’s First Secretary Xi Jing where the mediator and Blackhorse will be the increasingly federalising European, Angela Markel.

Thanks to a well-managed and stabilized growth economically China has become one of the world’s defence policy heavy weights. Growing and oriented towards foreign market export manufacturing has made China protect its position and utilize methods of retaliation. Despite rhetoric alluding to peace and harmony, China has constantly enlarged its military strength which the development has supported the growth of its economic power.

The constant enlargement of the navy shows the desire to control the trading routes on sea for Chinas important supply of raw materials. With support from the government, cyber warfare has been used to enlarge economic and political influence. On a broader scope the struggle for worldwide resources and for their pathways is emerging as a security factor, gradually supplanting ideologies and religions.

The majority of Europeans believe in the myth of apparent security, because it is easier to do so. Defence budget expenditures are being lessened in many European nations, not to be militarily more effective but rather to find resources meant to ease tensions caused by living beyond ones means. Germany does not want to have a leading role in security policy due to very negative and still agonizing historical experiences.

The United Kingdom generally is only interested in security issues when looking for partners to participate in Afghanistan and other international war zones. France and southern European nations are worried more about the Arab spring and consequent developing revolutionary zones, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This how the Security policy of the European countries function just like the swan, pike and crab in Krvlov’s well-known work. The result is a pan- European security environmental cavity that requires a larger commitment to cooperation from those that have a realistic interest in it. In Europe we are currently unable to decide our own affairs including areas of defence. We can no longer depend on American military support as it was during the Marshall plan after the Second World War.

It sounds cynical, but the USA military presence during the Cold War and NATO itself additionally have created a security myth situation where the necessity to invest in the defence area has significantly decreased. NATO has been an affordable way to ensure security, because figuratively everyone must stand up for themselves, this leaves the much discussed two percent GDP clearly lacking.

A suitable comparison is an apartment versus private house example. The jointly covered costs of the apartment are more affordable, when especially in a situation where the good hearted landlord (US) subsidizes the common utility costs as well as retaining the plumber and security staff on an all evening basis than a single individual paying all costs in his private dwelling. The US Ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder has clearly said that the European nations must enlarge their defence expenditure because the USA is not able to fill the gap forever, especially since the declining defence expenditures of the European nations is causing an extra monetary burden on the US.

Mid and eastern European problems have resulted historically previously from Russia. The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin’s long term policy for Russian society is directed to re-establishing their influence in foreign politics with a view on changing itself to a greater nation in Eurasia (the largest Eurasian derzhava).

The establishment of an Eurasian union based on the ruins of the Soviet Union, mourning the USSR and a constant course of confrontation with NATO gives testimony to the desire to reinstate two confrontational global centres of power.

Last year on the 5th of February Putin stated: “NATO military bases and anti-ballistic systems close to the Russian border have created a realistic threat to the territory of the Russian federation.” The Russian military strenuously started reforms. During the last four years they have doubled their conventional military strength in the western defence area and their large military exercise Zapad clearly shows their confrontational intentions towards the west.

A high ranking Russian General Staff officer confessed recently in an atmosphere of trust to his western colleagues that opposition to the west is part of Russian history. Nobody in the ruling structure has any desire to change 300 years of confrontational history.

Russian development in the last years confirms Mark Twain’s thoughts: History does not repeat itself, it rhymes. Perhaps in analysis for a long time realistic Russian security threats have no longer been from the western borders, the manipulation through threatening rhetoric is meant to unite and control a declining population. Added to that is the construction of military strength on the western borders. Regretfully there has arisen a situation where unfortunately only those European nations that feel a security threat from the eastern border realistic military restructuring, are prepared in investing and contributing to military strengthening.

The Nordic countries have developed support through the decades for the principles of their total security defence policy, moving separately in their own defence policy restructuring. The further you are from realistic threats the easier it is to make cost cutting and integrative decisions. The Danish defence system along with NATO directional personnel policy is currently emphatically US and NATO centred.

The Swedish thought of national defence in the last years has changed through a parabolic development of total defence to an expeditionary army and after the Georgian war gone back as a whole to a basic national defence conception. Reforms have substantially enlarged Sweden to a conventional military force in the region. At the same time in a recent interview the Commander in Chief of Swedish Defence, General Sverker Göranson revealed that he was seriously worried about their defence capabilities. In his words Sweden is capable of defending itself from a military attack for only one week.

Finland and Norway have not changed the development of their defence capability; their main thrust is independent defence and development of intense defensive cooperation. Each in their separate ways, but still consistently developing their own contingency plans. While Norway has focused its cooperation with NATO, Finland has been a faithful partner in international missions with a mandate from the UN, while at the same time introducing in its activities NATO nations standards.

Regardless of cost cuts and structural changes, Finland’s defence reform is still directed towards an enlargement of its independent defence plan, especially in the development of its reserve component. The recently completed Finnish security and Defence policy report or as it’s called, the white book brings forth defence expenditures and intensifying mismatches in necessary military capabilities. To continue and ensure military capabilities at the present level the defence budget as of 2015 must be enlarged to 50 million euros as well as a minimum of 150 million euros per year by 2020.

The NATO´s Smart Defence is nothing new for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Starting from scratch twenty years ago, these nations’ only chance to have defence development of any meaning was in joining forces. This has been has been achieved throughout the years in areas on the land, sea and air. Strong recommendations for military cooperation came from the Nordic countries and the considerable NATO nation members.

Although joining NATO was a dream twenty years ago, the western nations envisioned of cooperation with the Baltic militaries and the challenge proving us NATO worthy. One of the best examples is definitely the Baltic Defence College in Tartu which the Nordic countries have supported with large investments and many man hours in assistance.

The school has now become the only English language, multinational, higher learning institution providing a staff officers’ education in the whole of continental Europe.

The Baltic Defence College has orientated itself to a small nation’s security requirements in the Baltic security environment; consequently it is the last chance to begin close cooperation with the Nordic nations.

At the same time we realize that joining in cooperative projects with the well to do Nordic countries is not easy because we are playing in a different league. The Defence expenditures albeit on downward trend of the Nordic nations are ten times the amount of our own budget. Therefore to be able to taken as equals at the table we must be totally devoted to national defence and show this to our partners.

We do have an advantage in that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have already proved themselves in combat operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Taking part in NATO lead coalitions has been a relatively new experience for the Nordic nations and in that context we can compare our capabilities. Unfortunately we have had very little cooperation militarily with the Nordic countries, the only military joint venture being the Nordic battle group, it is clearly not enough. It is imperative to Estonia that we do everything possible to enlarge our cooperation with the Nordic nations, that it would not be limited to soft joint projects, like the role of women in the national defence. It is also important to encourage the governments of Latvia and Lithuania to contribute more in military national defence.

We love to quote NATO Article V, but tend to forget article III, which states: “In order more effectively to achieve the objectives of this Treaty, the Parties, separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.” Individual and collective capacity is inclusive of support, not exclusive of.

A good example of fulfilment of allied agreement in the Nordic-Baltic area is Poland, who systematically contributes their security capabilities, having in the last twenty years developed into an economic leader in the region. Poland has a larger population than the Nordic nations and the Baltics combined and contributes two percent of its GDP to national defence, while at the same time economically, Poland is growing. Poland wants to be and can be a security leader in the region.

Poland can be considered the area´s main military force thanks to reforms in defence and transformations in the armed forces. Poland has adequate resources to defend its sovereignty as well as if necessary protect its neighbours. Transformations in the military have significantly improved military professionalism and increased battle readiness. Instructional quality has risen due to in-depth applications. New principles in areas of logistics and mobilization have been applied.

These steps have been taken to the point that if in 2009 the difference between combat and support units was 53 percent and 47 percent, now actual combat ready units in the Polish armed forces are at 60 percent. Poland’s peacetime military is close to 100,000 military personnel with an additional 20,000 volunteers upon which the reserves are based on.

Poland has been one of the most active in promoting the development of regional security cooperation. We are most interested, of course in Polish cooperation with the Baltic and Nordic countries. Similar joint work format precedents are in place in Mid Europe or Visegrad group of nations and with other neighbours.

The ties between the United States and Poland should be separately considered, which president Obama during his first term of office suffered a bit due to American misunderstandings, though things have changed now from a security and military cooperation perspective into a very close a productive relationship. Strategic confirmation of the relationship has US military technical equipment placed in Poland. Poland and the US are forming a separate joint air force unit as well whose main task is to serve F-16 jet fighters and C-130 transport plane systems. The cooperation between the two nations is being furthered with Interceptor missiles and radar base complexes which are being placed in Poland within the framework of the NATO anti-ballistic missile defence program.

Opening relationships between Poland and Estonia has been a step by step process. It is ironic that before, as well as after, joining NATO and the European Union we have been looking towards mid Europe and we did not notice that Poland with similar interest and worries was a natural ally. Currently our relation is very busy and mutually beneficial. As a confirmation the Polish Defence Forces Commander, General Cieiuch visited Estonia last year – the first Polish Defence Forces Commander to visit Estonia since the end of World War II.

In the words of President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Poland is the most important large country in the Europe Union for Estonia, because Poles understand, without explanation the ideas and worries of Estonians.

With a small population and limited resources Estonia must be able to participate as an equal partner in the security community and be able work within the constitution and commitments put forth by the North-Atlantic Treaty. We can and will be able to do this when our model of national defence works, our military has real and active units, clear and understandable command as well as being ready to fulfill tasks within the nation as well as international operations today and in the future. We are proceeding on these basic tenants for putting together the development of our national defence.

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

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