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The President of the Republic on Victory Day on 23 June 2006 at Saaremaa

Dear fellow countrymen,

In this ever globalising world preservation of national values is a matter of considerable importance. Should a nation become estranged from her unifying values and symbols she would be in the danger of loosing her identity and of fading away into the obscurity of the history.

Today we are yet again celebrating the glorious victory of the Estonian War of Independence, the anniversary of the battle at Võnnu. For the first time we do this at a Navy Parade, which carries a symbolic meaning for Estonia as a seafaring country. The fact that the Parade is held on Saaremaa is important as well. After all, the people of this island were celebrated navigators and brave warriors, who during the ancient fight for freedom managed to uphold their stronghold longer than anyone else in Estonia.

In addition to Estonian troops and the National Defence League the Navy Parade today is attended by troops from eight different countries. The fact that the number of participants is greater than ever before bears witness of the sound base of our partnership, and of good co-operation in the name of achieving our common values. We extend our welcome to the representatives of the foreign nations at our Victory Day Parade.

The Defence Forces of Estonia, who has restored her national independence, and all the individual services of the Defence Forces have underwent a major and a successful development. This statement is based on the recognition granted to our participants in foreign missions, the successful military exercises of “Kevadtorm”, the carrying out of monitoring in our airspace, or the high-responsibility role of a NATO unit staff and support ship entrusted to us.

As the supreme commander of the national defence I express my gratitude to the General Headquarters, the commanders of individual services and, in particular, to the Commander of the Defence Forces for the good work performed. Through his balanced and at the same time inspiring activities Vice Admiral Tarmo Kõuts has lead our Defence Forces to achievements that we can be proud of.

However, if we wish this successful development to last we have to admit certain failings as well. Co-operation between different structures of the society at performing the tasks of national defence is not yet sufficiently coherent and many previously set objectives are being forgotten ever so swiftly.

Along with developing co-operation within NATO our continuous national defence objective is intensification of our total defence policy. A nationwide defence strategy is very important to a small country. This total defence policy, involving different spheres, from securing the availability of crisis stocks to organised armed resistance, provides us the preparedness to fight off different threats. All in all it means combining the abilities of various authorities for the joint purpose of defending the people and the State, which is, indeed, the task set forth by the law.

Internal security is no less important than military national defence. By developing the total defence policy, however, it is possible to ensure them both. Let us think back, for instance, to the storm of January 2005, or the oil spills that have befallen on Estonia within the last six months. Elimination of their consequences proved that we need more than one highly trained military unit. While being ready to participate in foreign missions we must be able to ensure our internal security. Preparedness of the police and rescue services forces for both major disasters as well as potential terrorist acts represents one of the key issues of the public security.

In the course of developing our national defence we have taken into consideration the commitments assumed before our NATO partners. All in all we can be satisfied with the result. Estonia is one of the few countries who have performed their international obligations pertaining to recruitment of personnel to headquarters. At the same time there are still commitments that require more effort – for instance allocation of two percent of the gross domestic product for national defence purposes.

I believe, however, that the most important issue is preservation and even more determined development of the basic independent defence capacity. We must consider the fact that Estonia, being a NATO border state, is situated in a quite sensitive geopolitical location. This sets very specific conditions that can be efficiently met only through developing the will of the people to defend the country, and through teaching her defenders the necessary skills. Compulsory military service is the means here, and I do not see any alternatives to it.

The debate on giving up the compulsory service and on preferring a professional army is welcome as is any other exchange of opinions held in a society. However, in making decisions advice of specialists in the field of national defence cannot be ignored either. Furthermore, setting of clear targets and using of information both on own possibilities as well as on perils spreading in the world, would be useful as well.

As it is, being a small nation we can only rely on limited efficiency and resources. It is necessary to employ all the alternatives available, including the will of people to defend their country. For this reason it would be unwise to give up compulsory military services in favour of small units consisting of only professional troops.

Our modern world has not become any safer, but rather quite the contrary. For this reason we need political prudence and a far-reaching sight to make wise decisions about our national defence – be it carrying out extensive reforms or deciding on the future of an individual unit. An incorrect decision in this sphere can cause problems for many generations to come.

Development of a clear management structure in the national defence sector does certainly need more attention. Moreover, the mobilisation system and the management of resources represent the key issues that the fate of our State will be dependent on at critical times. The same applies to the patriotic feelings of our youth. A promise to pay a salary for military service in itself will not make this service more attractive, and will not increase the will to defend one’s country. It is necessary to use principal measures, not promises.

Some years back both the quality and the quantity of conscription started to improve, however today retrogression can be observed. It is necessary to find its causes and to consider increasing the strictness of the State as well. But first it is essential to develop the infrastructure of the defence forces according to the plan, furthermore, the problems associated with the troops’ welfare facilities at individual units must be resolved as well.

Co-operation between the Ministry of Defence and the Headquarters of the Defence Forces, as well as more extensive co-operation, is a very important concept in view of the security of our nation and our State. The National Defence League serves as an excellent example here, by binding many members and spheres of our society in the name of a joint objective. Late Major Benno Leesik, the Commander of the National Defence League deserves high recognition for the achievements of the League.

Collaboration with the Border Guard, the Police, and the Rescue Services demonstrates the significant role of the National Defence League in safeguarding the internal security. Moreover, the League has well performed its task to participate in the military defence activities and in providing national defence education to young people. Within the framework of its military obligations last year the National Defence League trained a number of subordinate units and sent the first unit to the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.

Organisation of the Navy Parade today bears witness of readiness for co-operation. In the essence this represents a complicated major military exercise where the ability of tens of different structures and hundreds of people to co-operate is being tested. I would like to use this opportunity to compliment the National Defence League, and particularly First Lieutenant Toomas Peek. I would also like to extend my gratitude to everybody who have contributed to the success of this Parade in many different ways with their knowledge and effort.

Dear fellow countrymen!

Security is not a commodity that can only be imported; it must also be produced at home. Every country is capable of doing it, provided that she acts wisely and participates in international co-operation, without forgetting, however, her chores at home. I am convinces that Estonia is precisely this kind of a State.

I wish us all peace and wisdom to ensure prosperity of the Republic of Estonia. Happy Victory Day!

© 2006 Office of the President l tel: + 372 631 6202 l fax: + 372 631 6250 l