National Defence

The purpose of the Estonian security policies is to ensure Estonia’s independence and freedom, territorial integrity, constitutional regime, and the security of the population. The security policies will involve spheres, which may all affect the sustainability of a state and nation.

An integrated approach to national defence represents one of the most important principles for the implementation of Estonian defence policies. According to this approach, the pooled efforts of whole state will be implemented to ensure Estonia’s security in the event of a military threat. Therefore, national defence has a scope that extends beyond military defence and which also involves international activities, civil sector support to military national defence, psychological defence, ensuring domestic security, and the consistence of vital services – regardless of the threat scenario.

Estonia as a NATO member state can enjoy the principles of collective defence, which means that aggression against any one of the member states shall be deemed as an aggression against the whole alliance. The European Union membership merges Estonia with the European economic and legislative space, Common European Foreign and Security Policy, and European Security and Defence Policy, which has increased the safety in the Baltic Sea region and throughout Europe.

Estonian Defence Forces

The main function of the Estonian Defence Forces is to ensure readiness to defend the nation by military action. The Defence Forces plan and conduct operations by involving units from all the armed services.

During peacetime, the function of the Defence Forces is the surveillance and control of airspace and territorial waters; ensuring continuous defence readiness; training conscripts and preparing reservists; preparing units and participating in international operations; and assisting civil authorities in tackling the consequences of catastrophes caused by natural disasters or human activity. 

In the event of a crisis and during wartime, the functions of the Defence Forces are:

  • ensuring control over the national territory; employing defence capability to prevent aggression; should that fail, defending national integrity and sovereignty with all available military resources
  • controlling national airspace and ensuring the air defence of strategic sites
  • controlling submarine communications; and defending points of access to harbours and potential landing zones.

Estonian Defence League

The Estonian Defence League, part of the Armed Forces, is a voluntary national defence organisation that operates within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence and performs functions under the Estonian Defence League Act. The Defence League is militarily organised, has arms and engages in military exercises.

The function of the Estonian Defence League is to increase the readiness of the people to defend Estonia’s independence and constitutional order by drawing on free will and personal initiative. The Estonian Defence League – including the Women’s Home Defence (Naiskodukaitse), Young Eagles (Noored Kotkad) and Home Daughters (Kodutütred) – boasts over 21 000 volunteers.

The Estonian Defence League is a legal entity governed by public law. The Estonian Defence League is also a non-partisan organisation – partisan activity within the Estonian Defence League by political parties and other political associations or their representatives is prohibited.

Commanding the Defence Forces

The Defence Forces are commanded, in peacetime, by the Commander of the Defence Forces, who is subordinate to the Minister of Defence. The working body of the Commander of the Defence Forces is the General Staff of the Defence Forces, which fulfils the following functions: strategic planning, development of documents, and planning co-operation between different services.

The Defence Forces are divided into services and units with a central command. Estonia has three different services: the army, the navy, and the air forces. Each service has a commander, who is immediately subordinate to the Commander of the Defence Forces. In addition, a voluntary national defence organisation, the Defence League, is also subordinate to the Commander of the Defence Forces.

Related authorities

Compiled by: Ministry of Defence