Estonia wants powerful air defense system from allies

July 18, 2017

ERR News:

Minister of Defence Jüri Luik said in an interview with business daily Bloomberg that Estonia is in negotiations to have allied air defense systems brought to the region that would remain in place for an extended period of time.

According to daily Eesti Päevaleht’s (link in Estonian) information, efforts have been underway to bring a missile system to the region for nearly two years, and that the strengthening of the region’s air defense was mentioned at the 2015 NATO Wales Summit already.

The fact that the security of Estonia’s airspace in particular makes up one of the weakest points in NATO’s eastern wing has long since been discussed. Likewise known is Russia’s anti-access/aerial denial (A2/AD) capability.

The Russian missile systems positioned in the exclave of Kaliningrad has essentially created a dome which could make it very difficult for NATO to maneuver its forces into the Baltics via the Suwalki Gap.

Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces Gen. Riho Terras told the Financial Times last May already that the Baltic region needs Patriot missiles for its air defense.

At a meeting between previous Minister of Defence Margus Tsahkna and U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, there was talk of a more complex air defense system consisting of various levels, ranging from surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) to fighters.

According to Luik, the Estonian government is in work-level negotiations to bring allied air defense systems to the region for a longer period of time.

“Similar to having an armored British battalion here, it would be equally logical to have anti-aircraft assets,” Luik told Bloomberg. “It doesn’t add any drama; it’s rather just an element of deterrence.”

The Ministry of Defence confirmed to the paper that talks have not become more concrete, there are no definite countries withom whom Estonia is currently in talks and no specific weapons systems currently in mind.

The paper noted that the U.S. temporarily deployed Patriot missile systems — the same as mentioned by Terras last spring — to Lithuania for a defense exercise this month.

The U.S.-developed Patriot missile defense system and variations thereof are currently deployed by just 14 countries worldwide, including the allied countries of Germany, the Netherlands, Greece and Spain.

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International Cooperation