Renewed: 05.02.2014, 15:50

15 November 2012 20:49

Commander of Estonian Defence Forces: Today’s Estonian Defence Forces have served our nation for 20 years

Welcoming address from the Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces, Brigadir General Riho Terras on the occasion of the formal celebration of the 94th Anniversary of the Estonian Defence Forces at the Estonia concert hall November 15, 2012.

Highly respected Mr. President,

Honoured President Rüütel,

Mr. Prime Minister and

Members of Parliament,

Excellences, members of the Defence Forces,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is my privilege and honour to welcome you to the formal celebration of the 94th anniversary of the Estonian Defence Forces.

It would be difficult to find a more suitable place for today’s special event than the Estonia hall. Namely it was right here, in this nationally important spot that 101 years ago during a party the blue-black- white tricolour was raised to the rooftop alongside two Russian flags. Because the Tsarist regime found this activity unforgivable, the city district marshal was fined seven days arrest for negligence.

A year past completion of the Estonia there existed a church in this hall and a military hospital in the adjoining wing. World War I had begun. Regardless that it was such a malicious and previously unprecedented all-encompassing war, it did open up hopes and opportunities. The Estonian nation was established through the historical opportunities caused by the winds of this war.

The Estonian Defence Forces was founded on November 16, 1918, when the provisional government decided to call together a voluntary national military to defend the nation.

On this day, that we celebrate this event together, there reigned a year of huge confusion. The Soviets had taken power as well as the downfall of the fragile economy. Estonian military members were characteristically politically fractioned and in several different factions.

The second Estonian military congress was organized in this same room in January 1918, which fell apart because close to half of the hundreds in attendance were heartfelt in supporting Viktor Kingisepp and his comrades.

During these troubled times, few believed in the establishment of our own nation. The mentality that roused high school and university students and resulted in Independence War victory, was still a long way off. The monument in front of the School of Sciences is devoted to this faith and belief.


Dear guests,


20 years ago in October, the first Defence Minister after the Soviet occupation, Ülo Uluots passed on his ministers portfolio to his successor. He did in a way that today seems a little dramatic but very honestly and without doubt as a true statesman. He gathered his ideas about national defence on a few pages and called it politically his testament.

As we read his testament today, we understand the situation of National Defence at the time. „The current basic defence doctrine is bringing to life the creation of the Estonian Defence Forces,” Minister Uluots said in his appraisal of the situation.

The living conditions of the Defence Forces members was characterized by the lack of barracks, dining facilities, heating but also the lack of water and proper plumbing.

In the estimation of the Minister the funding of the National Defence was so poor that to earn funds, commercial activities took place: for example the sale of old metal.

Clothing and supplies were in a similar poor state. As a positive development, Minister Uluots signed an agreement with the Estonian Women’s league to knit 800 sweaters, pairs of socks and mittens. The Ministry of Defence of course arranged the yarn.

These are some of the more colourful examples. Socks, sweaters, old iron and plumbing are familiar topics for me personally as are they for many in our audience.

Why am I talking about all of this?

Primarily to highlight the development the Defence Forces has gone through. We have grown and matured along with the Estonian nation. It is clear that even today we are still living with limited resources and opportunities. The responsible planning and funding of the National Defence has a key meaning here. In this area Estonia has been set as an example for other nations.

Secondarily, because we recognize these individuals who, in course of the last twenty years, have given their contributions to Estonian National Defence. There are many who have done this and it gives me great joy. It allows me to confirm that the Estonian Defence Forces is a national force, our own peoples force.


Ladies and gentlemen,


The task of the Estonian Defence Forces and the Defence League along with our Allies is to defend the Estonian nation.

Relations with our Allies are paramount.

Lately there has been much discussion on the future of NATO after 2014, when the Alliance and partners military mission in Afghanistan ends.

Discussions have been held previously on the role of NATO and its place in the world. After the Cold War NATO has been constantly self-searching for the purpose of its existence.

I am happy to confirm that Estonia nor our Eastern European Allies currently no longer have to explain the existence of NATO. The Alliance’s basic task is and must remain collective defence. This has been very clearly understood after the Russian aggression against Georgia in 2008.

In the last twenty years NATO Allies have actively contributed in resolving conflicts worldwide. NATO has never worked jointly as well as it does now. This unique momentum must be held and developed. We realize that worries and wars have not disappeared from the world. We must be prepared for the unexpected.

To be fully militarily prepared, it is imperative to have high level exercises. I am very pleased that the past year was a challenging year for the Estonian Defence Forces. In addition to our own Defence Forces exercises we also had several international projects.

Behind complicated and foreign sounding named exercises there is a simple and understandable truth. We must be prepared here and now for Estonian National defence. But also tomorrow and in the far future. For that we must cooperate with our Allies as well as keep mentally alert at all times.

Estonia has been honourable and exemplary in its obligations to its Allies. I never tire of repeating – The Estonian soldier is the best in the world. I want to highlight non-commissioned officers of the Defence Forces, our iron hardware whose knowledge and experience is a guaranteed support to our officers in battle as well in exercises.

As you all know, we have not been without casulties. Those young men that have given their lives for Estonia must never be forgotten. We remember:

Ivar Brok, Agris Hutrof, Arre Illenzeer, Kristjan Jalakas, Raivis Kang, Jako Karuks, Marko Knaps, Aleksander Mjazin, Andres Nuiamäe, Allain Tikko, Kalle Torn, Eerik Salmus, Herdis Sikka, Aare Viirmaa.



Honoured guests,


Today’s Estonian Defence Forces has served our Estonian nation for 20 years. During that time there are many that have gone outside our borders on military missions. There have been those who have been wounded in foreign operations as well as while during their service here in our homeland. I am referring to our veterans.

I am truly pleased that in the last years we have laid the foundation for assessing the contribution and recognition of our veterans’ service.

In the soon to be future we will realize the start of Estonian veteran policy, which is a worthy beginning. I promise that I will do everything in my ability that this policy becomes a reality, a true support and recognition of our veterans.

Today is an appropriate and festive opportunity to recognize our work and accomplishments. It is a truer truth that the Defence Forces greatest asset is our own people. The encouragement and holding close of this valuable asset is needed to be significantly advanced. I assure you, that work has been done in this area and is still being  done and will continue to be done today and tomorrow with positive results we are about to see in near future.

National Defence development is like a complicated equation facing us with problems as well as between our use of existing resources, knowledge and opportunities. All changes bring along questions. We must maintain a calm and firm mind to resolve these issues.

Dear Defence Forces members, we are strong when we work together, are honest, friendly and open. Let’s be brave and skilled examples to one another.

I congratulate you on the occasion of the 94th anniversary of the Defence Forces. I wish all of us good luck, success and common sense in the Defence of Estonia.

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

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