Estonian defence minister Kalle Laanet urged NATO to establish command centres in the country which will be capable of housing more than 10,000 troops and handle the military bloc’s operations in the Baltic region.
Laanet, speaking to news agency Nikkei Asia in an exclusive interview, said that Estonia has informed NATO that Latvia and Lithuania along with Estonia need a ‘division-size command structure’ and tools to ensure ‘rapid deployment’. He further went on to explain that there are two brigades of Estonian military but the nation will require an additional bridge of troops from NATO for rapid deployment ‘if something happens’.
“NATO can lead or command here in Estonia one division of 10,000 to 15,000,” Laanet was quoted as saying by news agency Nikkei Asia.
Estonia’s request makes sense at this point since the alleged attack on the Transnistria region of Moldova by Russian forces show that Russian president Vladimir Putin is keen to fulfil his aims of reestablishing Novorossiya or at least expand Russia’s sphere of influence.
In another separate report by Financial Times, it was revealed that Russia and Belarus in 2020’s Zapad Military exercises practised a mock invasion of Baltic nation Lithuania where they staged the cutting off of the Suwalki gap, a narrow 65km Polish-Lithuanian border, in order to isolate the Baltic nations from incoming NATO support in case of a Russian invasion.
Eastern European allies of the US, including Poland, and to some extent many European partners of the US, in the wake of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan have grown wary of promises made by the US, fearing abandonment at the time of crisis.
Estonia gained independence from the Soviet Republic in 1991 and since then has remained wary of Russia. Russia has orchestrated several cyber attacks which led to Estonia strengthening its cybersecurity. Laanet also told Nikkei Asia that Estonia is ready to help NATO strengthen its cybersecurity. “It’s almost every day that Russian hackers are knocking at our cyber doors,” Laanet said.
He further said that the nation is planning to purchase naval mines and multi-launch rocket systems and also invest in medium-range air defence systems while improving its air defence. He said that Estonia is mulling to increase its defence budget to 3% of gross domestic product in 2024.
(with inputs from Nikkei Asia and Financial Times)