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Chief of Defence: our alliances are based on common values

With stones, if necessary – that is what fighting for our country was like then. Fighting for a country that only existed in dreams thus far. In 1999, Hugo Saalis was happy with the Republic of Estonia, because our own state meant a great deal to him.

Today, we are willing to do what Hugo Saalis and the rest did 100 years ago. Today, we no longer have to use stones, because our equipment has far exceeded it.

As our recent reservist training has shown, we are even more prepared than back in those days. Over 60% of those invited participate in reservist training. Most of those who are absent, however, still know their obligations and inform the Estonian Defence Forces of their issues.

The countries whose reserve forces we have considered as our role model for more than twenty years, do not merely deem the participation rate of our reservist training satisfactory… they consider it GOOD in terms of the amount and speed of citizen participation. As the Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces, I can say that in terms of citizen preparedness – to take arms and defend their country –, the Republic of Estonia is among the top of the world. However, I do not say this to highlight the great work of the servicemen, but rather to emphasise the loyalty of our citizens.

For instance, Igor Ahmedov – a crazy guy who travelled all the way from London when his country called.

We can dispute and sometimes even get into nasty fights about the development of our country on a daily basis. However, world views are set aside during reservist training and people do not confront each other, but stand by one another in the name of their country. Perhaps the best example of this is the Estonian Defence League, which brings together tens and hundreds of citizens of the Republic of Estonia with different views of the world every weekend – as one force in the defence of Estonia. The Estonian Defence League brought together over 9,000 such citizens last year during training exercise Siil. People with different world views, different nationalities – but all of them organised and working for the same cause.

I would like to thank all reservists and conscripts for their contribution! We must also acknowledge the reservists’ families and employers who have facilitated their participation in national defence. Your contribution is essential and demonstrates the strength of our country. I will say it once more, thanks to you, we are ready… on a global scale.

I also invite all citizens of the Republic of Estonia to participate in national defence. Through conscription and reservist training. Or as a Member of the Defence League, Assistant Police Officer or Volunteer Rescuer. Irrespective of gender and physical abilities. I believe we can do even better. I believe that we are capable of utilising the free will of our citizens. Reservist training, in addition to the Song Festival, could be perceived as something that unifies us.

However, we also have stronger alliances than the Republic of Estonia did at the time of the War of Independence. The allied troops stationed in Estonia today, in Ämari, Tapa and Tallinn, are not here just for demonstration, and certainly not to frighten anyone. They are here for the military defence of the Republic of Estonia – if it is ever needed. The decisiveness and intentions of our allies have never been as clear as they are today.

We will witness another new development in making our region safer as early as this year. An international Division Headquarter is being established in Adaži, Latvia. Most of the staff comes from Latvia, Denmark and Estonia, but other countries will be contributing as well. This is a development that will bind the protection of Estonia and Latvia into one whole, making it part of the security of the entire Baltic Sea region.

Estonia will also be holding three larger training events, which will focus on the practice of strengthening our Defence Forces.

And we must never forget that our alliances are based on common values, which have been repeatedly confirmed at the cost of the lives of Estonian soldiers, as well as the lives of our allies.

Today, here at the Freedom Square, we can only see a part of the troops that are ready to protect the freedom of Estonia, our common values. The servicemen who are standing under our flags, as well as the flags of our allies only represent a small portion. A far greater force can watch from the sidelines today – and that force is you and your will, dear citizens of the Republic of Estonia.

Long live the Republic of Estonia!

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