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President of the Republic at the dispatch of the ESTPLA-31 infantry platoon at Tapa Army Base 24 April 2019

26.04.2019

Dear servicemen and family members, Lieutenant Kelder,

I have promised to always be present when it’s about the freedom and security of Estonia. Your work, even in distant Afghanistan, is always about maintaining the freedom and increasing the security of Estonia. Coming to meet you before you go is the least I could do as the President of the Republic. Because I also worry about and feel responsible for you.

I know that the majority of this unit is made up of the combat engineers platoon of the Scoutsbattalion. To symbolise this, we stand next to the most powerful examples of your units equipment, including this bridgelayer. I know very well that you will not be taking this bridgelayer with you to Afghanistan. And anyway, combat engineers very often blow things up instead. However, indirectly you are also building bridges even in distant Afghanistan. One of the most important bridges that you figuratively help to build is the bridge between the Estonia and our Allies.

This bridge is already very strong today and manifests itself, among other things, in the Allied battle group here at Tapa and the fighter jets that police our skies but also in NATO’s defence plans that are constantly becoming more detailed. Believe me when I say that this bridge would not be as strong and impressive as it is today if it were not for your 3000 brothers in arms, our current veterans.

The fact that the bridge between Estonia and its allies is strong today does not mean that we should no longer take good care of and continue to reinforce it. For a small country, international cooperation and contribution is as important as developing self-defence capability.

This was already taught to us by General Einseln, our first post-war Chief of Defence. Because we remember very painfully what happened 80 years ago when we let the former bridges rust and slowly fall apart.

Nevertheless, Estonia does not participate in missions only to improve its position and strengthen its voice in the international arena. We ourselves have been forced to live under tyranny and fear for decades. Perhaps you no longer remember this but your parents certainly do.

We can now make our small but important contribution to protecting other nations who have not done as well as we have in the last decades.

We can contribute to resolving conflicts where they occur and prevent them from taking over our own streets. In other words, there is no need to destroy the bridge between Estonia and global hotspots.

But rather it must be carefully guarded.

I would also like to say a few words about the guarding and protection duties that await you in Kabul. I know that as true professionals in your field, the specificities of your training are, how can I put it, more rugged than organising base defence and escorting allies. But your contribution and importance is in no way smaller or more insignificant in the eyes of Estonia and NATO than that of your predecessors in Helmand Province or Iraq. The nature of the whole Afghanistan mission has simply – and luckily – changed, and despite great problems, Afghanistan’s own forces are more capable today than 5 or 10 years ago. This is also why the contribution of Estonia and other allies has instead become more supportive and less kinetic.


Dear servicemen of ESTPLA-31,

I wish that your service in Kabul will turn out as peaceful as possible.
To this end, trust your superiors and seasoned veterans and do not let routine get the best of you when standing guard, as it’s routine that is known to be the most dangerous thing.

At the same time, please maintain the bridge between you and your loved ones in Estonia. In many ways, they are also participating in the mission by being away from you for six months, guarding your rear. Dear family members – thank you in advance for letting your husbands and sons do this hard but necessary work. Hang in there, and I know that you’ll also do your best to maintain this bridge.

Thank you!