Today, during his visit to Estonia, Danish Minster of Defence Peter Christensen discussed Operation Inherent Resolve – the training mission in Iraq in which instructors from the Estonian Defence Forces will begin contributing as part of the Danish contingent, with Estonian Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso. The ministers also discussed topics related to the NATO Warsaw Summit.
Minister of Defence Hanso thanked his Danish colleague for the opportunity to participate alongside the Danish forces on the mission, the purpose of which is to train Iraqi security forces in their fight against the terrorist organisation ISIS. Last week, the Riigikogu approved a mandate for servicemen to participate in Iraq.
“NATO is a powerful defensive organisation, and its members must help each other. While the provocative behaviour of Russia is a priority for us, several of our allies are greatly concerned with the situation on the other side of the Mediterranean," said Hanso. “We can hope for the support of our allies when we ourselves are ready to provide our own contribution to ensuring our common security, particularly where the need for it is strong. One such area is Iraq, which is the reason we are going there with the Danes.“
At their meeting, the Ministers of Defence discussed the decisions to be approved at the NATO Summit in Warsaw concerning the increased presence of Allied forces, including the more specific contributions to be made by participating countries. It is presumed that Denmark will make a decision regarding the possible contribution of a unit to the Baltic States in the coming weeks.
According to Hanso, our allies have seen the need to send a clear and united message that aggressive behaviour is not acceptable in international communication today.
“The increased presence of Allies in our region, approved last week by the NATO Ministers of Defence, is a political deterrent that is also militarily credible,” said Hanso. “As such, what is at stake here is not only the ensuring of the security of our Allies in the region, but also the credibility of NATO as a defence organisation.”
Denmark and Estonia are connected by long-standing defence related cooperation. Among other things, a Danish division has offered division level training to our 1st Infantry Brigade Staff since 2009. The Danes have contributed a great deal to the development of the Baltic Defence College and have participated in several military training exercises. Denmark will soon be contributing its officers to the operation of the NATO staff element in Tallinn.
Preparations are under way at the Estonian Defence Forces Central Training Area, close to Tapa for the climax of Sabre Strike exercise. Members of the Estonian and Allied forces conducted training Friday which involved passing on control of areas as well as moving through positions.„This is a very difficult manoeuvre that requires very good coordination and steadfast commanding,“ Commander of the 1. Infantry Brigade, Lieutenant Colonel Veiko-Vello Palm said. „We gained good experience working with another brigade sized unit and I can say all went smoothly. The exercise Sabre Knight with the Danish Division as well as Sabre Strike with the Americans demonstrates that we conduct our exercises in a similar manner and this is another reason why co-operation with our allies has been so successful," he added.
The Scouts Battalion and the attached U.S. infantry company moved through the U.S. Army 2. Cavalry Regiment’s positions and took over control of the area. Further activities of the Scouts Battalion and Allied Forces involved control of various objectives as well as elimination of the opposing forces from their areas.
In coming days, the participating forces are preparing for the exercise’s culmination where the joint services will be conducting a live fire exercise. The United States has brought jet fighters, attack helicopters, the rocket system HIMARS as well as M777 155mm artillery pieces.
Over 10,000 troops from 13 NATO Allied and partner nations are participating in the exercise Sabre Strike. The forces are positioned in all three Baltic nations with the activities in Estonia taking place at the Defence Forces Central Training Area, the Tapa military base and Ämari Air Force Base.
At the proposal of the Commander of the Defence Forces, Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso appointed Commander Roman Lukas as the new Commander of the Support Command of the Estonian Defence Forces, as of 21 June.
Commander Lukas has served in a number of different positions within the Logistics and Operations Departments of the Headquarters of the Defence Forces and as the Chief of Staff of the Logistics Department of the Navy. In addition, he has served as the commander of various services within the Defence Forces Logistics Centre and developed defence related cooperation while serving as the Estonian Defence Attaché to the Federal Republic of Germany. As of 2014, Commander Lukas has served as the Chief of Staff of the Support Command of the Estonian Defence Forces and as of this spring he has also performed the duties of the Commander of the Support Command of the Estonian Defence Forces.
Roman Lukas is a graduate of the Tallinn Naval School and Tallinn Polytechnic Institute; he has studied in the admiral staff course at the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College. In addition, he has improved himself through various courses in the field of logistics.
Lt. Col. Kalev Koidumäe, the first Commander of the Support Command of the Estonian Defence Forces, established in 2014, will continue his service in the Ministry of Defence.
The Support Command of the Estonian Defence Forces organises the operations necessary to ensure the daily functioning of the Defence Forces, starting with procurements and logistics and ending with support services and the Orchestra of the Defence Forces. The Support Command is comprised of 11 structural units: Headquarters of the Support Command, Defence Material Division, Estate Service, Procurement Service, Accounting Centre, Movement and Transportation Service, Medical Centre, Personnel Support Services Centre, Orchestra, Logistics Battalion and the Logistics School.
Today and tomorrow, Estonian Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso and Finnish Minister of Defence Jussi Niinistö will be meeting on Saaremaa to discuss the strengthening of defence related cooperation between the two countries.
Hannes Hanso noted that this is a meeting between good friends and that Estonia and Finland share a similar vision when it comes to national defence-related challenges.
“Finland is our very close friend and security partner; our mutual discussions are open and constructive. We discussed developments in the security situation in connection with the NATO Summit in Warsaw, as well as mutual opportunities for practical cooperation,” said Hanso. “The military cooperation between two brother countries is reaching a qualitatively higher level. In light of the current security situation, neighbouring countries sharing the same handling of security cannot allow themselves to be passive when it comes to cooperation.”
During the visit the Ministers of Defence will be visiting Saaremaa based shipbuilders Alunaut and Baltic Workboats, both of which are manufacturing defence-related vessels. “Introducing such capabilities is a priority within the administrative area of the Ministry of Defence,” Hanso emphasised.
Servicemen from Estonia and Finland are currently serving together in a joint international battalion within the framework of the UN mission UNIFIL, in Lebanon, and this cooperation will continue. Finland offers Estonian military servicemen the opportunity to train with CV90 infantry fighting vehicles, which Estonia has acquired and which have been in use in Finland for some time already. Finland is participating in the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, in Tallinn, and the Baltic Defence College, in Tartu.
Hannes Hanso invited Finland to participate with a unit in the major Defence Forces’ training exercise Kevadtorm. Participation by Finland in the training exercise has thus far has been limited to Finnish staff officers. Jussi Niinistö invited Estonian military servicemen to participate in training exercises organised by Finland.
Commander of Estonian Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Riho Terras announced on the June 13 at the opening ceremony of the NATO Force Integration Unit building in Tallinn that the NATO Force Integration Unit, created a year ago, is now ready to operate at full capacity.“Today’s opening ceremony of the building and the announcement of NFIU’s full operational readiness are a clear indication of what we have accomplished since the 2014 NATO Wales Summit,” said Commander of NATO’s Multinational Corps Northeast, Lieutenant General Manfred Hofmann, at the opening ceremony, after receiving confirmation from Lieutenant General Terras that the NFIU is ready to operate at full capacity. According to Hofmann, the swift launch of the NFIU is a clear message of NATO’s unity and willingness to defend itself. “Today’s ceremony shows NATO’s unwavering commitment to the defence of both Estonia and the whole north-eastern part of Europe.”
As a result of an evaluation process that was carried out over the last three weeks, the Force Integration Unit was evaluated to be capable of performing its core tasks, which include the accommodation of reconnaissance and liaison teams of NATO’s high readiness forces and the support of the planning process thereof. In order to reach full capacity, the NFIU required its own working premises. Therefore, construction of the building of the NATO Force Integration Unit on the premises of the Headquarters of the Estonian Defence Forces was started at the end of last year.
Previously, the Estonian and allied military personnel serving at the NATO Force Integration Unit were temporarily located in the rooms of the Headquarters of the Defence Forces.
The creation of the Force Integration Units, which are now operational in six countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria), was decided at the 2014 Wales Summit. The first members of the Estonian Defence Forces started serving at the NFIU on June 15 last year. Estonian personnel make up half of the 40 positions, and representatives of the armed forces of the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands, Poland, Hungary, France, Canada, Norway, Denmark, and Germany fill the remaining posts.
The Force Integration Units in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, which have the status of NATO headquarters, operate under the watch of Multinational Corps Northeast located in Szczecin, Poland, and the Force Integration Units in Romania and Bulgaria are under the operational control of the Joint Force Command, which is located in Naples.
The North-Atlantic Council, meeting today in Brussels at the level of Ministers of Defence of NATO Member States, decided to increase the Allied presence in our region by sending a battalion sized unit to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso, who was a part of the North-Atlantic Council which made the decision, said that it is a breakthrough for ensuring the security of our region.
“NATO, as the world’s strongest defence organisation, is dedicated to protecting its member countries. The decision to increase the Allied presence in our region sends the clear signal to any potential aggressor that NATO stands together when it comes to the security of all Allies," said Hanso. “The decision shows that the Alliance will react quickly to a changed security situation. NATO’s reliable military and political deterrence doesn't leave any room for miscalculations – NATO will react in all instances if a Member State is attacked."
The concept behind the increased presence of Allies is based on one core member being responsible for each battalion, with other Allies contributing sub-units to the composition of the battalions. By the time of the Warsaw Summit, it will become clear which Member States will begin contributing to the increased presence. Currently the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom have announced their readiness.
The precise compositions and required capabilities of the approximately 800-1200 man international units will be agreed upon at the military level following the Warsaw Summit, adhering, among other things, to the capability shortfalls and military needs of the host countries.
The meeting of NATO Ministers of Defence, held on 14-15 June in Brussels, was the last meeting of this level prior to the NATO Warsaw Summit in July, where important decisions will be adopted, which will then be presented to heads of state at the Summit.
Today, Saber Strike exercise involving 10,000 troops training in three Baltic countries, was officially declared open with the ceremony hosted in Tapa, Estonia.“Saber Strike is no longer simply a U.S. Army exercise in Europe, with 13 Allied and partner nations, it´s a truly regional training event,“ Deputy Commander Estonian Defence Forces, Brigadier General Artur Tiganik said.
“I thank the U.S. Army for leadership they have shown in Europe and I´m glad this leadership has brought on board so many of our European friends. For regional security perspective, I cannot stress enough the importance of their participation,” he added.
Saber Strike is a long-standing U.S Army Europe-led cooperative training exercise. This year\'s exercise objectives will focus on promoting interoperability with regional partners and improving joint operational capability in a variety of missions to prepare the participating nations and units for future operations. Estonia is the main host nation this year.
Participating nations include Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, United Kingdom, and the United States. The exercise will be held in multiple locations throughout Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Exercise Saber Strike is an annual multinational exercise organized by the U. S. Army in Europe (USAREUR) and hosted by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
On Friday the North-Atlantic Council, the principal decision making body within NATO, approved a capability package, with which an investment will be made in the development of the cyber range capability located in Estonia.
The investment will significantly raise the technical capability of the cyber range and the ability to simulate and automate the environments required for cyber training and exercises. In addition, the investment by NATO will facilitate increase in number of teams taking part of exercises and will allow executing several different training and exercise events at the same time.
Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso stated that over the past few years Estonia has been a strong advocate when it comes to cyber defence related topics within NATO, and we have also made a substantial contribution to developing NATO cyber defence exercises and training capabilities.
“In 2007, Estonia was the first country in the world to suffer a state sponsored cyber-attack by Russia. There is a saying: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” – this is clearly true in the field of cyber warfare," said Hanso. “The cyber field has clearly become Estonia's niche capability and internationally recognised advantage. The decision by NATO to invest into the development of cyber range capability is yet another sign of trust and Estonia’s high level of cyber defence.”
“Cyber defence is a field in which the size of the state is not a deciding factor; even a small state may be equal to large states in this field. Estonia is one of the leading promoters of cyber defence within NATO, and through this significant investment by NATO we will further increase our visibility and strength in this field,” said Hanso.
Estonia has been developing a cyber range capability 2011; at the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales, the decision was made to establish the NATO Cyber Range based on Estonian capability. The current financing decision is a part of the implementation process for the NATO Cyber Range Capability.
Kusti Salm, Director of the Defence Industry and Innovation Department at the Ministry of Defence and the project manager of the NATO Cyber Range development project, said that the investment by NATO will significantly raise Estonia’s technical capability for carrying out cyber defence training exercises and training.
“The result of the investment makes it possible to organise even bigger and more complex NATO cyber defence exercises, training and also the testing of complex IT systems in Estonia,” said Salm. “It is important for us that NATO military personnel and cyber defence experts will now begin to use the cyber range capability much more often."
The NATO Cyber Range Capability is used for cyber defence training exercises, training and testing related activities. In essence it is a polygon, in which it is possible to practice cyber-attacks and test the resistance of IT systems without hampering the live-systems.
The cyber range is a powerful ICT system with a unique set of characteristics, the hardware and software of which imitates actual computer networks and the data traffic therein. The Estonian cyber range is located in the facilities of the Estonian Staff and Signal Battalion and the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. The cyber range capability can also be securely accessed remotely all around the world.
Two of the world’s largest international cyber defence exercises are carried out in the Estonian cyber range capability – Locked Shields, organised by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, and the largest NATO cyber defence exercise Cyber Coalition. Also taking place in the Estonian cyber range are the Cyber Olympics, held in cooperation between the Ministry of Defence and the Estonian Information Technology College, and a number of different cyber defence training programmes.
At the proposal of the Commander of the Defence Forces, Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso appointed Colonel Rauno Sirk to head the Estonian Centre for Defence Investments (ECDI), which falls within the area of government of the Ministry of Defence.
“The creation of a joint procurement system has long piqued the interest of the Ministry as well as the Defence Forces, and its founding is one long step in the process of improving procurements by the Ministry and Defence Forces and administrative activities concerning objects of national defence,” said Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso. “The field of defence, which accounts for more than 2% of gross domestic product (GDP), requires a precise and systematic monitoring and planning of expenditures. We must take this very seriously, be transparent, and act based on the best experience and knowledge possessed by our specialists.”
“The process of building up a new organisation is a major calling and requires a capable leader. Throughout his career so far in the Defence Forces, Colonel Sirk has proven that he has the necessary skills to perform the tasks facing him,” said Commander of the Defence Forces Lt. Gen. Riho Terras. “I am certain that we have found the best person to head the ECDI, someone who will be able to consolidate the known-how within this area of government into a single whole, and thereby further raise the level of efficiency in national defence procurements and the field of infrastructure development.”
Colonel Sirk will take over the process of establishing the Estonian Centre for Defence Investments (ECDI) as of 4 July.
Colonel Rauno Sirk has been active in the field of national defence since 1993. He has previously served as the Commander of Ämari Air Base, Chief of Staff of Air Force Headquarters, and deputy Estonian National Military Representative at NATO Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe.
Rauno Sirk is a graduate of the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences and graduated this year from the United States Air Force Air War College, in addition he has improved himself by completing various Air Force and management related courses.
In 2014, Sirk was selected as officer of the year.
Last autumn, the Minister of Defence made the decision to consolidate the procurement and infrastructure functions of the area of government into a single location, thereby freeing the Defence Forces from performing non-military tasks, in order to cope in a situation where over the past few years the volumes of procurements has notably increased, to raise the level of efficiency of procurement and infrastructure functions and make the use of the defence budget more transparent.
Commencing operations on 1 January 2017, the Estonian Centre for Defence Investments (ECDI) is being created as a state authority administered by the Ministry of Defence, which will begin to carry out procurements for the Ministry of Defence, the Defence Forces and other authorities within the area of government, and to administer and organise real estate. The Centre will begin to carry out 400-500 procurement projects and 100 infrastructure projects annually.