chapter  6
18 Pages

The ongoing transformation of the Estonian Defence Forces LEONID A . KARABESHKIN

Following the tectonic changes that the break-up of the USSR caused in international relations, Estonia, like other former Soviet republics, managed to regain independence. Unlike the other Soviet republics, the Baltic States had experienced sovereign statehood before, with borders during the historical period 1918-1940 that were (almost) identical to the present ones. The inter-war period has become an important point of departure in rebuilding the national and political identity of the Estonian state, also with respect to the military. The Soviet period is usually treated as the ‘occupation’ in Estonia and ran during 1940-1941 and 1944-1991. It has mostly negative connotations in Estonian historiography and its significance is often downplayed. Nevertheless, it has left its influence on the development of the identity and traditions of Estonian society, which has permeated the military as well. In June 1992, the Constitution of Estonia was approved on the basis of referenda. Its preamble made a reference to the Constitution of 1937, establishing continuity to the statehood proclaimed in 1918. After regaining independence in 1991, the history of Estonia is usually divided into three main periods: (1) before the withdrawal of the Russian troops in 1994; (2) before its fully-fledged membership of NATO and the EU (2004); and (3) after 2004. These key events posed new challenges for politicians and contributed to an evolution of doctrinal thinking on the role of the defence forces in particular, and of security and defence in general. During this whole period, institutionalization and conceptualization processes took place. Although preserving some controversial elements, the doctrinal basis became stable after NATO accession. The adoption of the constitutional Defence Forces Organization Act in 2008 finalised the military-related legal construction, although its fine-tuning continued. Amendments to the legislation approved by Riigikogu (the Estonian Parliament) in 2009 laid the groundwork for the Defence Forces and the Defence League to deal with domestic interventions as well.