No. 30




The Security Situation has Undergone a Drastic Change And We Must be Prepared for All Eventualities

The war in Ukraine and Estonia’s security are hot topics right now, which is why representatives of political groups in the Riigikogu explored the same in the discussion panel of Riigikogu Toimetised on May 4. The panel was Enn Eesmaa (Centre Party), Jaak Juske (Social Democratic Party), Leo Kunnas (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), and Mihhail Lotman (Isamaa).

ENN EESMAA: It may sound like a platitude that we are living in a new world after February 24, but it is nevertheless true. I predict that it will take at least two to three generations for the world and the European nations to bring themselves to fully restoring their relations with Russia. And this incredible rating that Putin enjoys is partly because many Russians, including members of the Russian speaking community in Estonia, see all the criticism as not directed against Putin’s regime but directly against the Russian nation, and this is extremely unfortunate.

A war in our neighbourhood has made a lot of things clearer both for NATO and Estonia. Today we have battalion-size battlegroups and an air policing mission in the Baltic states. It is clear that this presence is not enough in the current situation. We would need a division-size presence in every Baltic state, which would include both Estonian and allied units.

MIHHAIL LOTMAN: I believe that Russia is currently a criminal state, as defined by phenomenologist Karl Jaspers. A criminal state is one that cannot refrain from committing crimes because it is criminal by nature and expresses its nature by crimes and not good deeds.

The Riigikogu adopted a statement calling the war in Ukraine a genocide war. What’s happening there is well and truly a genocide. Because there is a continuous and unbreakable chain that links Putin to this wife of a soldier who incites her husband to rape Ukrainian women. Laughing! This chain runs through all the stages: propaganda, different authorities, ending up with the military and their wives, mothers, girlfriends who say – bring us stuff, rob the locals. Yes, it is a criminal society.

Putin dreams of the Baltic Sea being a closed sea [under Russia’s control]. Russia’s military exercises focused on closing the Danish straits, and one landing would probably have been planned to the Island of Gotland and the other one most likely somewhere in Estonia. But now as Sweden and Finland are joining NATO, the situation in this field is changing dramatically. I think that the weakest points of Estonia’s national defence are air-defence and coastal defence, and this is where we must definitely make more efforts.

JAAK JUSKE: I am sure that over the last twenty years we have been witnessing the rebirth of the totalitarian Russian empire, step-by-step. Europe has by and large made the same mistake as in the 1930s. Hitler could have been much more easily stopped in 1935, or even 1938, but eventually it took a really big war. The last of Putin’s fans had their eyes opened on 24 February. A fundamental change is the very likely accession of the Nordic countries, Finland and Sweden, to NATO, which helps Estonia preserve its democracy. As long as the totalitarian criminal regime perseveres in Russia, I like the suggestion of one of our security experts that we should become a Little Israel. Israel is a democratic state which is surrounded by enemies; a country that is armed to the hilt and yet holds on to democracy. This is sadly the product of their geopolitical location.

When it comes to military defence, Estonia has never been as well protected in history as it is today. The Estonian nation must absolutely be more broadly prepared in the current precarious situation. But we can sleep in peace because Estonia is well protected with the help of our allies.

LEO KUNNAS: Who is Putin? First of all, he is a Chekist; second, he is a blatnoi. A blatnoi whose gang is the whole Russia. I have come into contact with both categories in my youth. Their understanding of morality and decency is the total opposite of the normal people. Concerning Russia’s massive attack against Ukraine, I would put it very simply that they have bitten off more than they can chew in Ukraine. Ukraine cannot be conquered by military means. But we must not euphorically assume that the Ukrainians have repulsed Russia and that Russia is so weak that there is nothing left for us to do. Ukraine made the mistake of keeping their war time defence forces too small to deter Russia. After Ilovaisk and Debaltseve in 2014–2015, Ukraine’s war time defence forces should have been 700,000 strong. Estonia must not repeat these mistakes. Our defence forces have been too small, and our defence expenditure is too low, we have left huge gaps in our capabilities. Now we are trying to complete in three or four years what we should have done over the previous ten to fifteen years.

We have three enhancement packages coming for the next four years. In reality, new capabilities will probably be reflected in the budget strategy for 2023–2026. The first package is EUR 380 million, 340 million of which is earmarked for military national defence and 40 million for comprehensive national defence, mainly targeted at the Ministry of the Interior but also others. This goes to purchasing ammunition, which has twelve different categories, starting with ammunition for handguns and ranging all the way to missiles and sea mines.