Underlying principles and legal basis of national defence

As Estonia is geographically situated on the borderline between different civilisations, it has been subjected to wars throughout the centuries. Different regimes have occupied the Baltic states, being a strategically important region, several times. Having realised that, in the current geopolitical situation, a small country can only maintain its democracy and independence by way of integration into the West European security and economic space, Estonia’s objectives are to join NATO and the European Union. As Estonia wishes to be not only a consumer of security, but also a producer, a defence system has been developed in Estonia since we regained our independence in 1991.

The concept of Estonian national defence is set out in three legal documents, which prescribe the building of Estonia’s national defence system as a system of total defence where military action taken is based on the principles of territorial defence. These documents are: “Bases for the Security Policy of the Republic of Estonia” (hereinafter [BSPRE], passed in the Riigikogu on 6 March 2001), “Guidelines of the National Defence Policy of Estonia” (hereinafter [GNDPE], passed in the Riigikogu on 7 May 1996) and “The Military Defence Strategy of Estonia” (hereinafter [MDSE], approved by the Government of the Republic on 28 February 2001). The Peacetime National Defence Act (hereinafter [PNDA], passed in the Riigikogu on 6 February 1995), and the Defence Forces Service Act (hereinafter [DFSA], passed in the Riigikogu on 14 March 2000), are also important legislative documents pertaining to national defence.

The main terms and principles of national defence are set out in the defence concept. Estonia’s “national defence is an inseparable component of guaranteeing national security, anticipating the establishment and maintenance, in peacetime, of a regulated system of forces and resources necessary for armed defence of the state, and its application in the event of an aggression against the Republic of Estonia” [GNDP]. “The main function of national defence is to guarantee the preservation of the independence and sovereignty of Estonia, the indivisible integrity of its land area, territorial waters and airspace, its constitutional system and the vitality of its people” [PNDA]. “The basis of Estonia’s national defence is total defence which encompasses the entire society and which, in integration with international structures, also supports common defence…” [BSPRE].

Besides guaranteeing military security, Estonia’s defence structure must be prepared to assist the population in the event of a natural disaster, epidemic or major technological accident, and to support civil institutions and organisations in the elimination of consequences of a catastrophe.

National defence will be built up following two inseparable and complementary paths: independent defence, based on the state's defence structures, and international defence-related co-operation, aiming to develop united defence with the defence organisations oriented towards guaranteeing security in Europe [GNDPE].

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