TALLINN - The will of our citizens and the skills of our reservists are world-class, commander of the Estonian defense forces Maj. Gen. Martin Herem said in his speech at the parade marking the 102nd anniversary of the Republic of Estonia in Tallinn on Monday.
"Even today, we often behave egoistically, sometimes even atrociously, mainly for personal interest or for the sake of the exclusivity of our own knowledge. However, as a counterbalance, we as a nation are still prepared to defend our country, if necessary. Fortunately, we are currently practicing it only through training exercises. And hopefully with such conviction in expressing our will to defend that we never have to prove it in a harsh battlefield environment," the defense chief said.
"The will of our citizens and the skills of reservists are world-class. Any commander can be proud of this, any government can be proud of this, and people should also be proud of this," he said.
"Law or fear of punishment is not the reason why we can form a military unit of citizens within two days and cover 100 kilometers from the meeting point. And it is by no means any law that makes increasingly more employers pay full-time wages to employees who have left for reservist training," Herem said.
The commander of the defense forces said it is not a show-off if the Estonian basketball team is dressed in military uniforms, and it is not just charity when Estonian enterprises support the setting of the holiday table for our soldiers either in Iraq, Mali or elsewhere, far from home. And it cannot be considered merely pitiful care when villagers give bread-rolls to the soldiers during training.
Herem said that a serviceman sees such support as widespread deterrence of an enemy -- the enemy should take into account that the whole nation is involved in national defense. This should provide the people living in our country with peace and joy in their daily routine -- a 102-year-old country with its people is a good place to live.
"Fortunately, we also have the wisdom to see our country in the bigger picture. We have the resources to share with others. When speaking about the Estonian defense forces, it is imperative to highlight the activities of our soldiers in international military operations, where we are not only reliable allies but certainly contributing to the well-being of the people who live in the corresponding regions," he said.
The chief of defense thanked the active servicemen of Estonia both in the defense forces and the Kaitseliit (Defense League) volunteer corps for their competent and often self-sacrificing service in Estonia and abroad.
"Most certainly, you have a very important role to play in ensuring that the defense capacity of our reservist forces would be seen as credible and our service alongside the allies would be considered reliable. That we are worthy partners. Perhaps this is why the British-led battle group at Tapa, with Danish or French companies, has almost seemingly become part of the Estonian defense forces," he said.
Herem said that as a country, we have certainly reached a point where the soldiers of the Estonian War of Independence wanted to achieve 100 years ago. Maybe even further.
"But in order to protect our freedom against the same threats as 100 years ago, we need to collaborate even more seriously with our neighbors and allies. And not only in addition to NATO, but as part of NATO," the chief of defense emphasized.