The level of the Estonian defence budget, bridging the capability gaps of the Defence Forces, cooperation with NATO allies and Russia’s influence on the security of the region were spoken about at the meeting of the National Defence Committee of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) with the participants of the higher non-commissioned staff officers course at the combat school of the Estonian National Defence College.
Chairman of the National Defence Committee Hannes Hanso described the work of the Committee and gave a longer overview of the defence budget. Hanso emphasised that the defence budget should not be used for political games. “Defence budget is not to be played with for solving other issues,” he said. “This is not a sphere where we can make compromises.”
According to Hanso, Estonia will contribute more than half a billion euro to national defence next year, which includes the agreed-upon defence spending of two percent of GDP and also the expenses on receiving the allies.
Today, we rank fourth from the bottom in NATO by our real spending, next year we will lag behind the Latvians,” Hanso said. “Speaking of the future, we will not cover our real needs with the agreed-upon two percent of GDP and we will have certain capability gaps. We have to understand that all people of Estonia have to make their contribution to the national defence – some contribute as taxpayers, others as conscripts, still others have to live near the exercise grounds.”
Hanso thinks that with each capability that is developed, an additional percent will added to the budget of spending. “If we wanted tank capability, around 0.6 percent should be added, developing of medium-range air defence would need at least 0.3 percent, we also have to mitigate the deficit of ammunition,” Hanso said. In his opinion, it is necessary to start a debate on raising the minimum level of defence spending to 2.5 percent of GDP.
Speaking of the contribution of the allies in ensuring the security of the region, Hanso said that NATO had never before forward positioned its forces like it had done now. The agreement that was reached at the Warsaw Summit is necessary from the military point of view, and also politically possible. Since at the moment it concerns the deterrence capability of ground forces, it is necessary in his opinion to move on to increasing the naval and air capabilities of the allies in the region.
Members of the Committee Madis Milling and Ants Laaneots also participated in the meeting. Milling emphasised at the meeting that the decisions of the National Defence Committee are passed by consensus. Laaneots spoke of Russia’s aim to become the global administrator of the world. Challenges related to military service in the Defence Forces, bridging of capability gaps, extending of exercise grounds, international missions, and permanent defence cooperation between the member states of the European Union were also discussed.
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