Courtesy of The Baltic Times
July 11, 2016

The decisions of NATO’s Warsaw Summit will greatly increase Estonia’s permanent preparedness and Allied presence in Estonia should be regarded as a peaceful routine, commander of the defense forces Lt. Gen. Riho Terras said in an interview with Eesti Paevaleht.

“We certainly got more than we ever expected and about as much as we asked for. Around a year ago we sent a letter speaking about a battalion, to indicate the level of our ambition, and it has become reality now,” Terras stated. “No one would have believed this eight months ago and I’m deeply grateful to the people who helped to achieve this result.”

Terras emphasised that the key takeaway is that all 28 member states acknowledge the collective defense commitment enshrined in Article 5 of the NATO treaty. Many countries on the eastern border would also like to make a contribution, he said, mentioning the Baltic States, Bulgaria, Poland, and Romania. “I think we should be pleased about that,” he said.

According to the defense chief, the presence of NATO forces in Estonia is a peaceful normalcy. “The same as, for instance, American soldiers in Italy or British soldiers not long ago in Germany. This is a format of co-operation whose aim is to achieve another combat capable unit for Estonia. When it comes to Estonia, it would almost double our permanent preparedness,” he said.

Thorough talks regarding the details of the battalion to be deployed to Estonia are still to come, Terras stressed. “The bottom line for us is that it should fill as many capability gaps of ours as possible. I’ve gathered in talks with the French and the Danish that they rather see themselves taking rotations by turns, i.e. not together in the same battalion but one after another. But this still remains to be agreed upon, it’s just my current understanding,” Terras said.

In Terras’ view, an essential theme of the Warsaw Summit was the security of the Baltic nations, Bulgaria, Poland, and Romania as part of the Alliance’s security. “Twenty-eight heads of state and government have decided to take it seriously and all also have made their contribution. Almost all countries also have said at the table that they intend to increase their defense spending. Not immediately to 2 per cent (of gross domestic product), but all have said they want to contribute.”

“The main message to the Estonian people is that there is no war, there is peace,” the defense chief stated, adding that the Russian propaganda that may follow the outcome of the summit doesn’t deserve too much attention.