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Already in 1992 the Baltic Defence Ministers agreed in principle to co-operate in the fields of officer and specialist training. At their meeting in June 1997 the ministers decided to establish a joint educational institution for the training of senior staff-level officers. The purpose of the school is to train in short time a qualified officers corps able to lead the development of defence structures. The institution soon starts to train civil servants whose work is connected with state security or defence policy.

Short chronology of BALTDEFCOL:

  • 12 June 1998 – The Governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania sign the agreement establishing BALTDEFCOL.
  • September 1998 – In the premises of the college on Riia Hill in Tartu the core of BALTDEFCOL staff starts work.
  • December 1998 – The Baltic states sign a Memorandum of Understanding on the operation, administration and financing of the college.
  • 24 February 1999 – The official inauguration of BALTDEFCOL.
  • Spring and Summer 1999 – The international personnel of the college completes the preparation of house rules, curricula and training manuals of the institution.
  • June 1999 – The Baltic states prepare a protocol on BALTDEFCOL and the status of its personnel.
  • 16 August 1999 – Work of the first senior staff course starts. The course ends on 27 June 2000.

The foundation of BALTDEFCOL was an important step in strengthening the defence capabilities of the Baltic states. BALTDEFCOL is the first combined institution for military education in the Baltic states, helping to create a common background for the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian officers corps. The college’s main objective is to establish and continuously improve the training of senior staff officers of the defence forces of the Baltic states. BALTDEFCOL is the most effective way to educate NATO-interoperable staff-level officers in the Baltic countries.

Structure and organisation of BALTDEFCOL

The Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Baltic states on the founding, operation, administration, initial funding and appointment of teaching staff of BALTDEFCOL also stipulated the foundation of the BALTDEFCOL Board. The board consists of the representatives of supporting countries and the Baltic states. As the supporting lead nation, Sweden chairs the board. The board administrates and controls the development and daily activities of the college. The Education Board consisting of the representatives of the Baltic states and the college is responsible for academic and administrative development of BALTDEFCOL. The supporting countries are invited to participate in the Education Board as observers.

Development of BALTDEFCOL

At the initial stage of its activity BALTDEFCOL will receive remarkable international assistance, to be used to ensure the quality of education provided by the college. The initial international programme of support is intended to assist the Baltic states in the development of BALTDEFCOL over a period of five years.
During this time and in accordance with relevant progress reports, a gradual Baltification of the management, financing and appointment tasks of the college is to be started. The length of the Baltification process will depend on a number of factors, including the availability of suitable staff for the college.
International support to the college ranges from donating equipment, appointment of international personnel and direct financial support to hosting study tours and providing external lecturers.

The key part of the support is the secondment of international experts to the college staff. At present the teaching staff of BALTDEFCOL includes representatives from 12 states, including nine supporting countries. The teaching staff includes the representatives of NATO member states, as well as non-aligned countries with total defence traditions. This means that the teaching staff has made a unique pool of international experience available for the students.


The college was established with the aim quickly to develop a qualified officers corps in the Baltic states capable of leading the future development of the defence structures. At BALTDEFCOL, mid-career officers receive education according to NATO standards and procedures; their training also involves the aspects deriving from the specific defence conditions of the Baltic states. The language of instruction and administration of the college is English. If necessary, the students are offered supplementary language instruction before the courses.

The aim of the senior staff course is professional and personal development of the students. The curriculum covers the subjects of Operations and Tactics, Logistics, Political Science and Strategy, Staff Duties, Management and Administration, Total Defence and Military Technology. In the organisation of the activity and courses of the Baltic Defence College an emphasis is put on the general political and geographical situation, defence tasks of the defence forces and the defence concepts of the Baltic states. The curriculum encompasses NATO’s regulations, legal aspects of operations and democratic leadership. The studies are not limited to land and air defence, as navy operations also have their place in the curriculum and discussions.

Instruction is conducted through lectures, joint seminars and smaller workshops. The primary emphasis is on practical discussions and problem-solving, rather than theory.

In the subject of Operations and Tactics a large part of work and discussions is conducted in the field. All major defence problems of the three Baltic states will be covered in the course of staff exercises held in the region.

The civil servants course aims to improve civil servants’ skills as political advisors and to offer them in-depth knowledge connected with the role of a civil servant. The senior staff course and the civil servant course have some lectures in common. This is to facilitate a mutual understanding between the students concerning various aspects of the development of defence policy, and also to make them aware of the relationships and dependencies between political decision-makers, civil servants and military structures. Inter alia, the curriculum of civil servants includes Policy Planning, Management and Administration, Logistics, Political Science and Strategy, Staff Duties, Total Defence and Military Technology.

Estonia and BALTDEFCOL

Estonia is the host nation of BALTDEFCOL. Prior to the opening of the college, Estonia made considerable investments by allocating approximately half of the total 1998 defence budget infrastructure investments for the refurbishing of the building. The same building is also going to house the Estonian national military academy – the Estonian National Defence College. The Estonian Ministry of Defence also purchased and refurbished a former hotel building in Tartu for use as the BALTDEFCOL student residence. Estonia also gives administrative and logistic assistance to the college and hires the necessary staff.

BALTDEFCOL will become a very important link in the overall military educational and training system in Estonia. Through the college, the Estonian officers corps receives general training, the standards of which correspond to the requirements established in the Baltic states.

The staff of BALTDEFCOL issues the military journal “The Baltic Defence Review”. The commandant of the college has supported the creation of a Baltic Defence Studies Department by supervising its work and involving local researchers in BALTDEFCOL’s international company. BALTDEFCOL is also an excellent venue for defence-related seminars and discussions. On 31 August 1999 the Estonian and Swedish Defence Ministers organised the first seminar “Defence Structures of Small States” in the college.

12 Riia Road
51013 Tartu, Estonia
Tel.: +372 717 6000
Fax: +372 717 60503

Last updated: 12. February 2020, 14:27

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