“The rapid development of Estonia’s national defence is unavoidable because of the complex security situation caused by Russia’s war of aggression. This year for the first time Estonian taxpayers have entrusted more than 1 billion euros to military defence, more than half of which has been channelled into procurements to directly increase our defence capabilities,” said Pevkur.
According to the Minister of Defence, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Estonia has made decisions that have led us to invest twice as much in ammunition stockpiles as was spent during the previous thirty years following the restoration of independence. Over the next four years, about a quarter of Estonia’s defence budget will be spent on ammunition. A significant number of ammunition storage facilities will also be built. “It will be difficult to put it on display at a parade, but its impact on our defence is crucial,” Pevkur said.
Other major contracts signed this year include the IRIS-T medium-range air defence system, loitering munition, and major procurements of wheeled armoured vehicles and military vehicles. This year, in addition to various batches of ammunition, Estonia received six additional K9 self-propelled howitzers and naval mines, enhancing maritime capabilities. Anti-ship missile systems are also expected soon, which will increase Estonia’s long-range precision strike capability.
The wartime composition of the Estonian Defence Forces has been increased to 43,700 combatants, including the important element of doubling territorial defence to 20,000. To this end, the six-week territorial defence reservist training exercise Ussisõnad (Parseltongue) was organised from August to October, covering the whole of Estonia in a blanket of security. In May, exercise Spring Storm (Kevadtorm) 2023 took place, with nearly 14,000 conscripts, reservists, active servicemen, members of the Defence League, and allied soldiers from 11 countries participating.
“Estonia’s independent defence capability is supported by our membership in NATO and the presence of NATO allies in Estonia,” Pevkur said. “We have signed a ten-year cooperation agreement with the United Kingdom, the lead country of the NATO Battlegroup in Estonia, France has made its presence in Estonia permanent and we have units from the United States, the world’s strongest military force,” the Minister of Defence said.
This year Estonia continued to provide military assistance to Ukraine, sending nearly 250 million euros in arms and equipment, while spearheading several international initiatives to support Ukraine.
“Ukraine’s fight for freedom can only succeed if the allies continue to support the Ukrainians with real and substantial aid of 0.25 per cent of gross domestic product per year. It is not just Ukraine that is at stake, but also the security of Estonia, the transatlantic community and the wider world,” Pevkur said.
Slides from the press conference can be found here.