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On Estonian Victory Day in Rakvere

23.06.2017

Dear Estonians, dear allies!

Dear people here in Rakvere and in your homes throughout Estonia!

Take a look around this square. What you see is a sense of security – the members of our Defence League, who are standing here in their free time, side by side with our allies. Estonia’s security is guaranteed and today, the guarantee is more steadfast than ever. We are strong, we are visibly ready to defend ourselves, and we are not afraid. There is no reason to be.

NATO ensures peace. NATO’s trustworthiness has been tested by the Cold War and is being tested today by the international situation in our region, as well as farther afield. NATO is persuasive and credible, always appropriately prepared. That is why the NATO deterrence is always operational and has always functioned.

Our politicians and diplomats have made the right strategic decisions. This has not always been easy: we have 22 years of experience serving on foreign missions. The decision to defend the security and independence of our state through international cooperation, meaning far from our own doorstep, has been correct, though not self-evident.

We have created a sufficiently strong foundation that enables us to cope with the tensions surrounding us and abrupt changes in the world. We have done everything possible to make sure that the fate of our country will never again be dependent on any one person, state, or organisation.

General Einseln, who passed away this year, insisted that as we develop our national defence capabilities, we must not focus narrowly on our own territorial defence. He knew that today, every battle requires international cooperation. He and his colleagues laid the foundation for our officers’ capability to work in an international environment.

The members of our defence forces who have fallen far from home fighting to safeguard Estonian independence have not died in vain. They gave their lives so that we could prepare to celebrate the centenary of the Republic of Estonia in peace. We, in turn, are responsible for making sure that our grandchildren have the opportunity to celebrate Estonia’s bicentenary.

Every decision made by the government or parliament of this country must bear this responsibility and proceed from the knowledge that there are people, members of our generation, who have sacrificed their lives for Estonia’s future. Even today, our soldiers on operations are defending Estonia’s future and risking their lives and wellbeing every day. Even today, there are those who have been injured in Estonian Defence Forces exercises recovering in hospital. Even today, our own men and women are serving on civilian missions in several different crisis regions.

Taking all of this into account, do we have the right to make decisions that are based on other, short-sighted or narrower interests than the future of Estonia? We do not.

The existence of military defence is one of the main preconditions for survival in the world. However, countries are increasingly discovering that strength alone is not always enough when the enemy is a terrorist or hacker.

A sentry cannot be stationed on every bridge, and an armed guard cannot be in the passenger seat of every car. For that’s exactly what those whose aim to sow insecurity and chaos want.

What we need are knowledge, common sense, and resourcefulness. What we need is the ability to recognise an attack even when no weapons are involved. What we need are international agreements that can help us react to these attacks while not putting the independence and sovereignty of our country at risk. What we need is a much broader approach to security that includes all sectors of community life. Today, appearing before members of the Defence League standing in formation, it is fitting to talk about broad and comprehensive security.

Estonia’s security is strengthened by a coherent civil society in which informed citizen activity plays an important role in promoting safety and a sense of security. Security starts with each and every one of us. Just as we are responsible for ourselves, our families, and our communities in good times, so do we have an independent role to play in crisis situations, be they accidents, natural catastrophes, or threats to our security.

We must all know how to prevent accidents. And we must all know how to behave when accidents still happen.

Through Estonia’s educational system, we must promote our readiness to act independently, to seek help, and to take responsibility until help arrives. Just as we contribute to our readiness to defend Estonia against military threats through our national defence system.

Not everyone belongs to the Defence League or the Women’s Voluntary Defence Organisation, though the organisations are where we can acquire the best skills and crucial self-confidence to cope with any accidents, should they occur.

Each of us plays a role in our own security, starting with ensuring the safety of our families and making sure help is available when something happens. Personal readiness and the work performed every day by ambulance teams, police officers, and rescue workers must be supplemented by a national notification system, reserves, and overall readiness.

It must be supplemented by the knowledge of how to organise an evacuation from a danger zone; how our hospitals can assist an unusually large number of people at once; and how our agencies, ministries, and local governments can participate in handling and resolving any crisis situations that may crop up.

Accidents happen when bad circumstances coincide. An effective response begins with readiness and constant training and exercises. Goodwill is not enough for coping with a crisis when it arises.

In every crisis, there are visible heroes and those who are simply doing their jobs. Both are necessary, but the more well-prepared people we have who are capable of calmly performing their duties during moments of crisis, the faster people’s sense of security will be restored – and we will know how to stand up for ourselves in every distressing situation.

The Estonian Defence League and Women’s Voluntary Defence Organisation play an important role in providing a sense of security. Luckily, more and more people are joining their ranks. The problem is that very often, these same people participate in a number of other security-related activities. Thus, in the event of a grave emergency, they might not be able to be in more than one place at a time.

What’s the solution? We must find a way to involve more of our fellow citizens. The knowledge and skills taught by the voluntary organisations involved in ensuring a greater sense of security are a part of the personal safety and peace of mind that we provide to our families. This could be an important motivator for getting involved and learning.

Achieving a sense of security requires cooperation. We cannot have important issues roaming the corridors of various ministries without anyone to advocate them. We must spend more time putting our heads together, but we also need a great deal of resources, which is often ignored when planning tight budgetary strategies.

To a great extent, these crucial resources are ones we’d rather not think about every day: medicine stockpiles, bandages, hazmat suits, radiation monitors – materials that are acquired in the hope that we will never need them.

And yet, great and irreparable damage can happen if we don’t have these materials on hand when we need them. We hope that our Defence Forces will never have to fire their weapons at a real enemy in defence of Estonia’s territory, but we still acquire those weapons.

The same applies to other security-related infrastructure and technology: we hope, of course, that we will never need them, but we cannot risk not having them. Just as we have our NATO allies, with whom we fill in one another’s gaps and embark upon different paths of specialisation, so do we have partners on a broader security spectrum. For environmental risks, we have agreements with the countries in the Baltic Sea region, and we have the EU solidarity clause, which enables us, when necessary, to obtain equipment and materials to cope with various risks that are highly unlikely in our region, but not impossible.

In the same way as our defence, security, and foreign policy experts are working every day on the frontline of diplomacy to manage military risks, so, too, does our diplomacy play a significant role in guaranteeing broader security through international cooperation, ensuring that we and our partners are equipped with the essentials in case of an emergency.

We must consider this very broadest level of security every day: one, of which national military defence is only one aspect, albeit a crucial one.

An unstable neighbour of Estonia has forced us and our allies to decide and act quickly in order to ensure we are never alone or in danger. However, the thread of life usually gets tangled up much more locally, unexpectedly, and without attracting as much attention. Society needs constant assurance that we are able handle crisis situations.

It is the handling of everyday misfortunes, which gives us that certainty.

In this way, we develop self-confidence – the knowledge that we can cope with even very serious crises. In turn, strong self-confidence and the ability to care for ourselves and others play an important role in our military deterrence.

The various threats coming from the greater world are less alarming if we know that we are ready and can rely on one another to get by. Broad security extends from our homes to NATO’s headquarters, and we all have role to play in it. We are protected. Still, we must safeguard ourselves and Estonia every day.

Let us cherish Estonia!

Long live the Estonian Defence League!