Renewed: 24.02.2017, 15:04

24 February 2017 12:36

Commander of Defence Forces: Protection is afforded to those who want and can protect themselves

The address of the Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces, General Riho Terras, to the parade in honour of the 99th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia on February 24, 2017 in Tallinn.

Honourable President of the Republic!

Honourable President of the Riigikogu!

Mister Prime Minister!

Your Excellencies! Members of the Defence Forces and the Defence League!

Dear compatriots!

99 years ago, Estonia created itself a new future. Proclamation of the republic was a clear demonstration that our own statehood is the best way to preserve our people, our language and culture.

Europe was caught in the whirlwind of the First World War, which erased empires from the map and created an opportunity for the birth of nation states.

A small nation only has a slight chance to establish its own state. An unlikely chance. Such moments need to occur in favourable times and environments. On top of that, people themselves have take charge on the right day and the right hour.

Our people were ready for that day. Estonia had its educated intellectuals and nationally-minded leaders. Estonia had the individuals who hoped, believed, and willed. Who went into battle and won Estonia’s independent statehood.

Indeed, the wider significance of the War of Independence in our history is the recognition that even a small nation has its place under the sun and the right to make its own decisions as a state. The War of Independence gave us courage and confidence to claim that this here is the Estonian state.

Today, on the 99th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia, at the foot of the War of Independence Victory Column, it is appropriate to remember those for whom Estonia remained forever young. Who gave their lives without knowing, what will happen, but hoping that our people and our state will persist.

The days of the War of Independence proved to us that we can only be strong as long as we have friends and allies beside us. We remember from history, how important the military support from the British navy was to turn the tide of the battle in our favour. In addition to the Brits, volunteers from many other countries had come to fight for Estonia’s independence.

Similarly, we are strong today, because Estonia is a member of the world’s mightiest military alliance. No country has managed to call into question the effectiveness of NATO’s deterrence. This power was created to protect our members from any kind of military threat. This power is present in Estonia. Estonia is a part of this power.

Deployment of allied forces on the territory of NATO members is normal and customary practice. Like in Estonia, the US troops are present in military bases of more than half of NATO member states. These troops are involved in training and defence cooperation. The goal is to improve the efficiency of communication between allies and to ensure better protection of NATO.

In the spring of this year, the town of Tapa will welcome more than a thousand new inhabitants whose daily work and service is associated with NATO’s increased presence in the eastern part of the alliance. The United Kingdom is the lead nation of this battle group, with French and Danish servicemen also serving side by side with our British friends.

For Estonian Defence Forces, it is almost like a reunion with our brothers in arms. We served with the Brits in the difficult conditions of Afghanistan. Together with the French, we were the first to respond to the outburst of religious violence in the Central African Republic. The Danes served with us, shoulder to shoulder, in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Our wish is to make our allies feel welcome in Estonia. For this, the Estonian state has made the necessary preparations. We have built new barracks and extended our training grounds. But the most important is for Estonian people to accept our allies. This is the best way to move together closer to the ultimate objective of Estonia’s presence in NATO and NATO’s presence in Estonia.  This objective is ensuring better protection for us.

 

Dear compatriots!

Collective defence and independent defence capability are two equally important pillars of Estonia’s national defence. Estonian state has been consistent in its choices, with the development of the Defence Forces remaining in the public focus for many years. We cannot afford to look idly to the horizon, hands at our sides, waiting for help from the West. Protection is afforded to those who want and can protect themselves.

The development of our national defence in the coming years will require involvement of a larger number of conscripts in bolstering our reserve forces. We have tested the preparedness and skills of our reservists in large exercises and flash meetings. We have seen a real and considerable desire and willingness of Estonian people to defend our country.

In order for Estonian Defence Forces to train more conscripts, we need to be prepared for a closer dialogue with entire Estonian society. Estonian Defence Forces would like to see that our young people are healthy and active. That they perceive the conscript service as an opportunity to gain knowledge and skills. Our reserve forces are based on such knowledge and skills. They help to keep our independent defence capability continually up to date.

However, if we want to be able to protect Estonia in the future, we need to increase our numbers. Today, survival and growth of Estonian people is a crucial challenge. For the members of the Defence Forces, this issue has a very practical dimension – with whom and who are we protecting?

I am very glad that we have many families where participation in conscript service, reserve meetings or exercises of the Defence League is a natural choice. There are large families that have raised quite a few defenders of the country.

Today, standing here on the Freedom Square, I would like to thank and mention the family of Kirschenbergs from Southern Estonia as a positive example. Four of the five sons in this family began their service in the Kuperjanov Battalion. The fifth son, the youngest, has said that he would like to start his conscript service in the Kuperjanov Battalion in the next year. This is a clear sign that serving Estonia is a matter of honour in this family.

 

Dear people of Estonia!

A few hours ago, a video bridge connected us to our servicemen who serve their country far from home. Our troops have taken part in missions in different corners of the world for more than 20 years. They have made Estonia greater. They have given us the opportunity to speak and decide as an equal among our friends and allies. Our soldiers have built a bridge of trust, which has brought allies to Estonia.

Our willingness to be present in places, where vulnerable groups are in need of protection or where peace needs to be kept with arms, is a confirmation that Estonia sees itself as a part of a community. A community firmly based on European principles and values.

In an unpredictable and changeable world, we need to remember that the independence and freedom of our people has never been and will never be a given. The Estonian state was established to protect our people and our freedom.

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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