Appearing on ETV’s ‘Esimene stuudio’ political program on Sunday, Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Commander Lt. Gen. Martin Herem said: “We’re not really talking about a division – the five to ten thousand fighters, who would be here in Estonia – per se, but how this division would get there.”
“It would include a headquarters, at least two Estonian brigades plus some other Estonian units,” Herem continued, adding that similar measures should also be taken with regard to NATO personnel coming from outside the EU. Estonia.
Components from outside Estonia would be ready to deploy to Estonia quickly and at short notice, and would already be briefed on the operation of the division and the conditions in Estonia, he added.
“At the same time, there should still be designated units, perhaps also partly here in Estonia, which, in the event of a threat, or, more exactly, a decision, would come here to Estonia in a few days, but which are also used to deploying here here, deploying in concert here; who are used to coming here as such. These might already have resources stored here in advance,” Lt. Gen. Herem said. .
Defense Ministry spokeswoman Susan Lillevaäli told ERR that the alliance must be prepared for Russia to test that readiness.
“For this reason, we need to move from a state of deterrence to a state of defensive readiness. In order to defend Estonia, we need a NATO-ready command structure. This command structure would lead the units from Estonia itself, the allies already here (Great Britain, France, Denmark) and reinforcements coming to Estonia in case of war,” Lilleväli continued.
“The most important thing for us is the clear command structure in the operating room, it was clear about the transfer of critical capabilities to Estonia, that is, what and when to be transferred here, the weapons and equipment pre-deployed to the reinforcement forces coming to Estonia,” she added.
The current NATO command structure in Estonia comprises two brigades, which would mean that an increase in size was needed to achieve a division-level capability.
Ministry of Defence: Moving from a posture of deterrence to a posture of defense
The Department of Defense told ERR News on Monday that the forward presence concept should be transformed into a forward defense concept.
“We are talking about a combat-ready NATO divisional command structure, which would lead Estonia’s own units, the allies already there and the reinforcement forces that would come to Estonia in the event of war,” said ministry spokesman Kai Simson.
The expansion had already been budgeted for, Simson added.
She said: “The Estonian government has just decided to further strengthen Estonia’s national defense, allocating 476 million euros for this purpose. This package sets out six key areas where we plan to strengthen our defence. one of the decisions is to also allocate more funds to infrastructure to receive allies.These additional investments, on our part, are also an indication that we are ready to invest quickly in the presence of allies.
The current active EDF strength is around 29,000 – of which around 4,000 are on active duty and 25,000 are in rapid response reserve.
NATO’s current Enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup based in Tapa has around 2,000 British, Danish and French troops – it is a separate undertaking from NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission based in Amari.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said last week that Estonia’s defensive capacity was currently insufficient, given the attempted full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine which began on February 24 and the resulting changed security situation.
This situation could be improved by stationing a division-sized NATO unit in Estonia, composed of both Estonian personnel and those of its allies, as noted.
A division is roughly the fourth tier of military unit by size, after army group, army, and corps, and typically employs 10,000 to 20,000 personnel, at full strength, and typically focuses on a combat weapon, e.g. infantry, plus support elements
Some military divisions retain their identity for decades, for example the US Army’s famous 82nd Airborne Division.
A division is followed in size by a brigade, comprising a few thousand people; the EDF has two infantry brigades in addition to all its other aspects (the Estonian Navy (Merevägi) and Air Force (Õhuvägi) are also part of the EDF organization).
The core of the NATO eFP Battlegroup has generally been a battalion-sized unit (a few hundred personnel) on a rotational basis, with the current rotation overlapping, meaning the British contingent is around two times greater than it was until recently.