Renewed: 16.11.2013, 11:37

15 November 2013 14:34

Terras: Our security is part of the Alliance's security

Terras: Our security is part of the Alliance's security Terras: Our security is part of the Alliance's security

Welcoming address from the Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces, Major General Riho Terras on the occasion of the formal celebration of the 95th anniversary of the Estonian Defence Forces at the Estonia concert hall on the 14th of November 2013.

Highly respected Mr. President,
Mr. Prime Minister,
Members of Parliament,
Excellencies, members of the Defence Forces,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is my privilege and honour to welcome you to the formal celebration of the 95th anniversary of the Estonian Defence Forces.

The Estonian Defence Forces were established on the 16th of November, when the Provisional Government decided for the sake of national defence to call upon volunteers to form a National Military.

The nations of the world had just a few days earlier attained a long awaited peace from the First World War; unfortunately this did not mean peace for Estonia. This was only the beginning for Estonia. Thousands had to pay the supreme price for our young nation. The Estonian people and the Defence Forces had no time to prepare or jointly train for the Independence War; it was a matter of survival, a do or die situation.

The decision of the newly formed republic to defend itself gun in hand had historical implications, thanks to the resolve of the nation’s leaders as well as the bravery of the largely volunteer military, it was shown to the world that the desire for Estonian Independence was not a peripheral result of the post World War collapse of Imperial Russia but that we were serious about our freedom. 

Thanks to that determination we were able win our Independence War. Thanks to that resolve we were able to define our borders with the Tartu Peace Accord.

Today, 95 years later we can confirm that we received international recognition due to our perseverance shown in the Independence War. The international community did not rush to share that recognition after the declaration of independence or even after the signing of the Tartu Peace accord. It took time to convince the world as a whole that Estonia had fought as a nation to take its place and remain on the map of the world.
Thanks to this international recognition and later non-recognition by our friends and allies of the occupation of Estonia, could we absolutely and concretely talk of the legal continuity in the restoration of the independence of Estonia. The principle that ties our nation historically and as a whole with today’s event.

Honoured guests,
The Estonian Defence Forces has a modern army. Our knowledge, skills and commitment are geared to counter modern threats, regardless from where ever they may come from in the world. 

Estonia's national defence planning, training preparation and carrying out, by participating in international military operations, must maintain the one clear and simple principle – The Defence Force’s and the Defence League’s mission is to defend the nation of Estonia, and to do that in conjunction with our allies.

In order to best protect our nation, it is wise from time to time to look at the arsenal at our disposal. To look over the personnel and assets, to measure the effectiveness of the organization, and to have a serious analyses on whether and how to best address the completion of the main task at hand.
We have gone through this journey in the development of national defence. During this process we were able to get, for the first time a clear view of what we are able to achieve with the existing situation and what more needs to be done to defend the nation of Estonia.

The Estonian Defence Forces defend the country today and right now - but we can still better the situation. The National Defence Development Plan and its implementation is a major step toward an even stronger defence. We need to have the faith, commitment and dedication of each member of the Defence Forces and Defence League. Only then do we have a reliable future together. It is imperative for soldiers to have confidence. Whether it be confidence of knowing that all is well at home, or to know that your activities are well regarded by your peers and that your nation supports you and sees a benefit from your service to the state.

The support of the nation is very important to the Estonian Defence Forces. Our origins and structure is a military force of the people. Compulsory military service based on reservists along with the volunteers of the Defence League is the bridge that unites the people and national defence. This makes the matter of National Defence for you and me and all of us very important.

Speaking of the main strength of our military national defence force, namely the reserves, I would particularly like to highlight the contribution and hard work of our reserve officers. On the one hand, they are our ambassadors between the military and the general population. Secondly and equally as important they are the leaders of our Reserve units. The initiative and sincere interest in the welfare and defence of our nation by the Reserve Officers is a fine example to us all.

Honoured guests,
The Defence Forces and the Defence League have earned the strong support of the nation. The great confidence and support of the people comes with great responsibility.  The national budget accords 2% of our national Gross Domestic Product to be spent on Military Defence. This is considerably more than many of our friends and allies in Europe, which has given us more credibility. This has created a seriously taken and trustworthy reputation for Estonia.

Consequently, we have the financial responsibility to utilize every cent and Euro accordingly and to the best use of our everyday military capabilities and resources. This means that there must be a well planned and balanced use of the funds designated for our defence capability. We must highly value our most important asset - our people's contribution, we must look to the future and make prudent investments as well as soundly planned procurements; we must substantially maintain the Defence Forces.

A wage increase for the Defence Forces was implemented in the spring of this year, which increased significantly the income of our personnel. But let’s look beyond the monetary amounts. Money is always important but without status and consequent honour and sense of duty we would be not worthy to militarily defend our nation.

Keep your vocation honourable!

Ladies and Gentlemen,
As stated earlier, we protect our nation along with our allies. Good relations with our allies are important for Estonia, because it provides a strong and visible deterrent.  As in the principles of the Musketeers - one for all and all for one, NATO Article V, guarantees the best possible security for Estonia.
In order for this guarantee to be valid, today, tomorrow and in the far future, it is necessary to hone skills with exercises as well as know and recognize our friends and allies. Our efforts are directed towards the goal that NATO will be better prepared to meet any threats. To use the best and safest way to consistently train together and taking into account the interests of all our allies.  

Having just finished a major exercise, Steadfast Jazz in Poland and Latvia is a clear sign that the defence of Estonia and our neighbours is taken seriously. Our security is part of the Alliance's security.

We've done a lot, so that Estonia’s message would be heard, that we are taken into consideration. Cooperation with NATO and within the framework of the European Union, as well as bilaterally with key allies, has targeted the achievement of a higher objective - securing our safety and survival.
As everyone in this hall knows, NATO does not only conduct exercises. NATO has been involved in combat operations in Afghanistan for ten years. This demonstrates the strength and determination of the alliance. A weak and spineless NATO could not accomplish this. It is clearly obvious.

By next year the Allied mission in Afghanistan in the current format, will come to an end. During the last ten years, the military capability of NATO has increased primarily due to shoulder-to-shoulder joint battlefield experience. This experience is invaluable, and the increase of level of skills and knowledge must be implemented with the security of all of the allies in mind. 
Combat operations in restless Helmand province, has opened a new page for Estonia in cooperation with the United States, Great Britain, Denmark and several other allies. Understanding each other, and with joint experiences on the battlefield has given a sound foundation for even closer cooperation in the future. Knowing that you can rely on our friends and allies, even in the most difficult situations, gives courage to soldiers, and adds to the security of Estonia. I hope to welcome our good friends from units of the British, Danish and USA forces to our Independence Day parade on the 24th of February in Pärnu next year.

Honoured guests,

A couple of weeks ago we brought home a monument from Camp Bastion with names of Estonian soldiers fallen in Afghanistan engraved upon it. The simple commemoration, which kept the memory of our honoured fallen far from home, finds a new location in Paldiski, in a birch grove by the First Infantry Brigade.

I want to thank the Chairman of the Government and the Chairman of the National Defence Commission as well as the Estonian Reserve Officers for all their support. With this support, we put a memorial up there, where there are friends, fellow soldiers and brothers in arms - people who appreciate the significance of this modest memorial the most.

Please rise, remembering those who have given their lives for Estonia. We will remember you.

Thank you!
Estonia has outstandingly fulfilled its commitment to its allies with honour. I do not tire of saying nor can not stress enough – The Estonian soldier is the best in the world. I want to highlight the military NCOs, our iron hardware, whose knowledge and experience is a constant firm support to officers in battle as well as in exercises.

The Estonian Defence Forces have evolved and grown with the nation of Estonia. Our mission is to defend this country, and we take this responsibility very seriously. Today is a good day to think about it in this formal yet festive atmosphere.

The anniversary of the Defence Forces is a day when we can recognize those who have given and been the best of the best in their service. To those who have found a special mention due to their contribution to the development of the Defence Forces. I'm sure everyone in this hall as well as those in the Defence Forces units all over Estonia, but especially in operation areas, far from home, deserve recognition.

I congratulate you on the occasion of the 95th anniversary of the Estonian Defence Forces. I wish us all strength, success and good sense in the national defence of Estonia.

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

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