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Estonia has no backup plan if Ukraine falls

  • Estonia fears Russian aggression post-Ukraine war
  • PM Kallas stresses support for Ukraine’s defense
  • NATO boosts military presence to deter Russian incursions

Estonia is a NATO member that regards itself as a front-line state. Its border soldiers gaze across the Narva River at the Russian fortress of Ivangorod.

This diminutive Baltic nation, which was previously a component of the Soviet Union, is confident that President Vladimir Putin will redirect his attention to the Baltics once the conflict in Ukraine concludes, with the intention of regaining Moscow’s control over countries such as Estonia.

In order to mitigate that hazard, the Estonian government has allocated over 1% of its GDP to Ukraine’s war effort, including the provision of munitions and financial assistance.

Ukraine would prevail if every NATO member implemented this measure,” asserts Estonia’s resolute Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.

However, Ukraine is not emerging victorious.

Ukraine is grappling with the overwhelming force of Russian firepower, glide bombs, and massed infantry assaults that frequently approach the suicidal, as it is chronically short of artillery, ammunition, air defences, and, most importantly, personnel.

I inquired of Prime Minister Kallas, “What is Estonia’s contingency plan in the event that Ukraine loses this conflict and Russia’s invasion ultimately succeeds?”

She responds, “We do not have a backup plan in the event of a Russian victory, as this would result in us abandoning our primary objective of assisting Ukraine in repelling the Russian invasion.

“We should not succumb to pessimism.” In Ukraine, victory is not solely contingent upon territorial gains. “If Ukraine joins NATO, even if it lacks territory, it will be considered a victory, as it will be included under the NATO umbrella.”

Kaja Kallas is a subject of controversy. She is one of many national leaders to be more popular outside of their country than within.

Her mother and grandmother were forcibly deported to Siberia after they were born Soviet citizens.

She is one of the most uncompromising leaders in NATO when it comes to blunting the Kremlin’s ambitions in Europe, having served as prime minister since 2021 at the age of 46. This has caused some in the White House to be concerned that she may inadvertently lead the West into a direct conflict with Moscow.

Russia poses an existential peril.

Additionally, a significant number of Estonians are dissatisfied with the increased levies imposed to fund their contribution to Ukraine’s defence. However, Kaja Kallas advocates for the West to recognize the existential threat posed by a resurgent Russia.

Russia aims to instil fear in our societies,” she informs us as she sits in the cabinet office in Estonia’s equivalent of 10 Downing Street, with a view of the ancient castle walls and soaring spires of Tallinn’s Old Town.

Diverse hybrid attacks are observed in numerous regions of the European Union.

Known as “sub-threshold” or “grey zone” warfare, “hybrid attacks” are hostile actions that are suspected to be perpetrated by an adversary, such as Russia. The damage can be extensive, and no shots are necessarily fired, and no one is slain. However, it is often difficult to assign blame.

An example that remains unresolved is the enigmatic underwater explosions that destroyed the Nordstream gas pipelines beneath the Baltic Sea in 2022. Another example is the recent allegation of Russian electronic interference in flights that pass near its exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic coast.

Estonia’s internal security service Kapo cites the example of last autumn, when hundreds of schools in Estonia and other Baltic states were sent emails alleging that bombs had been placed in school buildings, in its most recent annual report.

“Such threats,” according to the report, are intended to induce psychological and emotional distress by concentrating on the most vulnerable individuals, thereby jeopardizing juvenile safety.
“Strategy is contingent upon denial.”

Therefore, what is the extent of Estonia’s susceptibility to a potential Russian invasion?

On the outskirts of NATO’s Exercise Steadfast Defender, a NATO officer stated, “We must prepare for war in order to prevent it.”

On the southern frontier of Estonia with Latvia, the clear spring air is filled with exhaust fumes as ageing British Challenger 2 tanks and other armoured vehicles from the 1980s lurch over farmland.

The Western alliance was somewhat awoken by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. It served as a wake-up call for NATO leaders, who recognized the necessity of substantially increasing their military presence on the eastern periphery of Europe in order to prevent any future Russian invasions.

The United Kingdom currently commands a 1,200-strong battle group that is stationed in Tapa, northern Estonia. This group is comprised of a company of France’s elite mountain infantry, drones, artillery, and infantry.

Brigadier Giles Harris, who oversees the UK forces in this region, emphasizes that the primary objective of this denial strategy is to ensure that sufficient troops are assembled in a timely manner to establish a stronger deterrent.

1,200 personnel may not appear to be a significant number, but the primary takeaway from the ongoing conflict in Ukraine is that size does matter. Although Russia may possess inadequate equipment and tactics, it is capable of amassing an immense quantity of ammunition and soldiers, which frequently enable it to surpass Ukraine’s defences.

He replies, “Your observation that one battle group is insufficient would have been a valid one a few years ago.” “However, our revised strategies involve the reinforcement of a brigade-sized force [3,000-5,000 troops] in anticipation of any brief, minor incursion by Russia.”

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We have a formation in the UK that is at a high level of readiness, and it is a significant improvement from our previous state. This will allow us to deploy heavier forces in a timely manner.

The Estonian counterparts of the British forces stationed in Tapa are closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine.

According to Brig Harris, it provides a glimpse into the tactical deployment of Russian personnel. We now perceive our training in Estonia as a mission rehearsal that is specifically designed to combat the adversary that we observe occurring in the southern region of Ukraine.

Therefore, I’d like to know if Britain’s commander in Estonia is confident that a Russian incursion into Estonia would be successfully repelled, given the current setbacks Ukraine is experiencing, which are primarily due to a shortage of workforce and ammunition.

He responds without hesitation, “Certainly.” “More so now than ever before.”

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