Renewed: 28.05.2014, 15:58

01 April 2014 15:56

Commander of Defence Forces: Our deterrence is based on rapid response forces

Commander of Estonian Defence Forces, Major General Riho Terras´ foreword for the Estonian Defence Forces Annual Report 2013

While penning these lines, we do not know how the situation in Ukraine will develop. What we do know is that the Russian Federation aggression toward Ukraine is serious as well as that, for Estonia as a border nation for NATO and the European Union, everything must be done to ensure that similar circumstances do not occur in Estonia or in the region.

It is clear that the Ukrainian crisis was not created from scratch. In a situation where there are occurring several global security issues as well as determining processes, the Russian leaders have found a weak spot, figuratively a missing brick in the dam to fill the empty pouring security space with their forceful narratives and controlling powers.

What has in fact made the Russian federation act in this fashion, acutely in opposition to Europe as well as the Western world as a whole, creating and introducing their perception of international law?

Firstly, you cannot overlook the declining visibility of the United States in Europe, in foreign and security policy as well as in military terms.

Many were surprised by the U.S. low activity and the non-interference over the situation during the protests in the last months of 2013 in Ukraine, when important values such as human rights, democracy and national self-determination on the international arena were obviously at stake. These are values associated with U.S. foreign policy for decades.

Those who saw the signals in the above mentioned behaviour of the Russian Federation in the recognition of the so called sphere of influence were right. The situation has now changed so dramatically that the Allied security interests, always considered important by the U.S. have besides rhetoric forced the Alliance to apply assurance measures. The most prominent of these being the enforced Air Policing mission of the Baltic nations.

The European reaction to events in Ukraine has rightfully gained serious criticism. The methods by which Europe tried to call the Russian Federation to order have not been sufficient. This has confirmed the single most security and foreign policy’s greatest weakness - a lack of unity. This has brought about procrastination and a softening of the situation where actually more concrete and current political and economic methods should be applied faster and automatically as well as attempts at stopping the escalation of the crisis. This seeming feeling of security and protection has been present in Europe since the end of the Cold War.

The generation that currently is making decisions at the ballot boxes as well as at cabinet and parliament discussions, does not have a clear connection with the past or proactive threats from that era. The cashing in on so called peace dividends has become a trend so embedded that it would require a severe shock to be reversed. Is this what is actually happening as a result of the Ukraine? If you compare the situation in Georgia 2008 to a wakeup call that with a sleepy head was snoozed, the situation in Ukraine is the last chance to wake up because to keep on sleeping would have serious consequences.

Should Europe start seriously considering the events transpiring in Ukraine and undertake the necessary analysis, more importantly start to invest in security and defence, then the military-political adventure of the Russian Federation would be deemed a grave miscalculation whose repercussions would be hard to swallow and more complicated to digest.

How do Estonian national defence and the Defence Forces fit in this security environment? As stressed before, Estonian national defence has a strong connection with society. This comes from our national defence model, where two equal in worth necessary beams represent the primary individual defence capability as well as strong ties with our Allies, for collective defence. It is clear that in a situation where the vulnerability of society is in question it can become a key factor. In the event of a major crisis, how can we mobilize our entire forces enough to survive? How do we apply our broad-based national defence concept? These are issues that need to work on.

Our military deterrence is based on rapid response units. They must be well trained, equipped and armed accordingly to the corresponding assignments. To attain this goal it is important for all military personnel to be involved, but contribution from all the individuals involved in national defence is also needed. Only in then can we create a force that is strong and robust ie. creates deterrence.

The process began a few years ago for the Defence Forces with the new National Defence Development Plan. In addition to the everyday planning, participation in exercises and military operations there is a need to stress knowledge and development in national defence in general. The development of the Defence Forces is closely tied to the mental potential of the people. Innovation or the implementation of smart solutions in our work and activities are important for the future. To attain this, we must work together with the universities as well as with the developing defence industry.

Our long mission in Afghanistan is winding up in 2014. During this operation the Estonian Defence Forces have shown themselves in the best light. Thanks to our soldiers, non- commissioned officers and officers Estonia has remarkably strengthened its position in the international arena. Our word has more weight, we are reckoned with. It is apparent that Afghanistan will not be our last military mission far away from home. Last year we began participation in the Mali mission. Parliament has agreed to send our troops to the European Union military mission in the Central African Republic. All this refers to the fact that worries, crises and wars will not disappear from the world.

This in turn, requires us to maintain a constant readiness to act in any situation. 2013 was truly an exercise year. A large-scale NATO exercise Steadfast Jazz based its scenario on defending Estonia against the NATO article V attack. This demonstrates that our message has been received by our Allies. The main task of NATO is to support collective defence and to jointly train for that purpose. The events in Ukraine only confirm this truth.

In closing, I’d like to highlight our veterans. On April 23, 2013 we held our first national Veterans Day, which together with the implementation of our veterans policy must insure that our men and women who have stood armed in defence of our nation will be recognized by our society and they will be remembered. The cornflower emblem as a veterans support symbol has already found wide positive acceptance. The confirmation of Veterans Day as a national flag day is another good and thankful step in creating a strong bond between the Defence Forces and society at large.

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

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