There are lots of relevant political discussions and interviews in the newspapers, on the radio and television lately defining the differences between the party platforms. Winter is always a good time for country people to visit, get together and discuss what is happening. Naturally prior to an election, it is important for everyone to know what the issues are. Who deserves or does not deserve our support. Most of the local people I have talked with, feel …you don’t change horses in midstream.
They are rightly worried about the present frail recovery. The current coalition has already lived through and now seems to be, successfully managing a recovery of sorts.
The new kids on the political block, the “Greens” are hoping to ride the sort of populist wave established twenty years ago by Jüri Toomepuu or much more recently by Indrek Tarand. I was telephoned by a friend last week to ask if I would run as a Green candidate. I told him I am not interested though I am involved with developing a “green „solar energy project in Estonia. I don’t like the idea of opportunist party jumping. I can understand those who switch parties because they feel betrayed or disappointed by their party leadership. In my case, I am happy to simply provide a diversity of opinions and possible new approaches to problems for my party of choice.
There is one serious issue I don’t believe is getting enough press, whether Estonia should switch to a professional army or continue with mandatory conscription. When I discus-sed this question with my neighbors at the Sõmerpalu or Antsla stores, most felt strongly it is important for a citizen to serve in the military. My neighbor, Karli Kaska in 1996 was serving in the Estonian De-fence Forces and briefly had been a driver for the then Commander of the Riigikaitse Akadeemia, Leo Kunnas. Today Leo is a retired colonel, author and running as an independent candidate for parliament and one issue he feels very strongly about is, maintaining our mandatory military service for every able bodied citizen. Since I have already discussed this with Leo, I asked Karli what he thought of Estonia ending the draft and switching to a professional army.
Kaska Karla told me Estonian conscripts with whom he served who could only speak Russian had quickly learned to speak Estonian out of necessity just as Estonians had to quickly learn Russian when conscripted into the Russian army during the soviet occupation. He couldn’t think of a quicker or better way for integration to continue.
I favor keeping the draft as do most citizens who have served in the military. It is usually those citizens who have not served in the military that do not see the merit or significance of this rite of passage into adulthood and/or citizenship.
It is the Defense Ministry who mainly supports establishing a professional army and I wondered why? I know many of the senior people in the Defense ministry from the time I worked at the General Staff, I even had an office in-side the Defense Ministry for a time. I suspect I may have come up with the answer.
NATO forces serve to protect the collective European Union states from outside aggression. This is the main reason why Estonia joined the EU, a defense and buffer against Russian re-encroachment into our borders. But NATO is not mandated to defend individual EU nation states from each other. Should a critically placed member nation suffer a coup, decide support rouge terrorism -the European Union currently has no way of maintaining the status quo, order, or to even enforce any of its policies.
I remember ex French President Chirac ranting against NATO and championing the idea of developing a European Rapid Defense Force in order to combat terrorism. Most naysayers ar-gued correctly this would simply be an expensive duplication of NATO obligations. The idea of a European Army based in each EU country, comprised of mercenaries from all the other EU nations would be a hard sell. Why not start off first with a professional army established in each EU member state?
Mercenaries or professional soldiers are loyal to whoever pays the bills. The cost of any country to maintain an army is expensive to say the least. A professional army is an easy sell to voting mothers and fathers of military age offspring. Once each EU state has accepted the idea of its own professional army, the European Union could then graciously come in, and offer to take over costs and maintenance for said army and presto, our EU has a formidable, homogenized professional EU army!
The question here is, is this a good thing or not? I think the question depends – from whose perspective? If you are looking at this from an Estonian nationalistic point of view, then we could be giving up a lot. Our citizens might feel alienated from our military. The soldiers we see garrisoned in Estonia n the future could be French, German, Spanish, and/or Greek etc. In some respects we could again feel like an occupied state.
From the point of view of the European Union, a professional army is essential because the EU needs credibility and teeth in enforcing its policies. In the mid nineteenth century the United States needed an army to hold together the southern states that wished to secede. Prior to the American Civil War, each state had its own militia and their first loyalties were to their individual governors.
Friedebert Tuglas in his book Juhan Liiv wrote in 1927, on page 55, Jaansen’s views, “ Kõigepealt “baltlane”, siis alles sakslane, eestlane või lätlane! Maa saatuse juhtimine peaks tulevikus kuuluma ühiselt kõigile “baltlastele”
Considering the diversity of religions, cultures and ethnicities, I believe it is inevitable the EU will experience critical events requiring armed intervention between member states. The current financial mess with the Euro can be seen simply as a first growing pain. It is naïve to believe we will always be just one big happy family.
A line is being drawn in the sand separating those who believe Estonia über alles from those who believe the EU über alles! Both sides are sincere in their belief that only they are working for the common good. We should remember a country only gets the government it deserves!
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