TALLINN – Estonian President Alar Karis said in a speech made at the 15th annual War and Disaster Medicine Conference at the Estonian National Museum in Tartu that crises and wars must be prepared for during peacetime.
"The better prepared we are, the greater the hope that this knowledge will never be needed on the battlefield," Karis was quoted by spokespeople as saying.
The president said that the topic usually talked about when it comes to war is weapons -- aircraft, tanks, artillery --, but there is too little discussion about what is inevitably part of it, which is those who self-sacrificingly help to save thousands of wounded people.
"Without the support of medicine, a soldier does not fight, their will to fight is low," Karis said. "Russia's war in Ukraine painfully shows how important it is to contribute to the development of military medicine in peacetime. Medical capacities do not develop overnight, they involve careful planning, training and specialized knowledge. It is therefore important that defense capability planners make timely contributions to the development of medical capabilities in addition to military power."
According to the head of state, when it comes to disaster and war medicine, it is not possible to draw a line between military and civilian systems, instead, they must work together.
"Estonia relies on the reserve force, which means that, in peacetime, our military medics work in normal hospitals, but when the trumpet calls, they know their wartime place and task," Karis said. "Our medics have received proper training, have worked on solving complex problems in various crisis areas and on military missions and contribute to international cooperation on a daily basis."
The head of state pointed out that military medicine is an important field both in Ukraine's need for aid and in our support. He also noted that together with Germany, Estonia donated two field hospitals to Ukraine along with training and transport equipment.
"Estonian field hospitals, which Ukrainians affectionately call 'Spaceships', are in active use at the front and have saved the lives of more than 4,000 Ukrainian fighters. Together with the Netherlands and Norway, we will send a third field hospital to Ukraine in the near future," Karis said.
According to the president, the war in Ukraine has increased NATO's military presence in our region, on the eastern flank of the alliance, and this is also the case with military medicine. He added that it is also no coincidence that the War and Disaster Medicine Conference is taking place in Tartu, where there is a university with a long tradition of medical science. In addition, Tartu has a modern university hospital, Tartu Health Care College, the Estonian Military Academy, medical simulation center of the Estonian defense forces and good training opportunities on terrain near the city.
"All this is a great practice and development center for us and our allies," Karis said.
The Estonian president and Brig. Gen. Clinton K. Murray, commanding general of the US Army's Medical Readiness Command Europe, also inspected the defense forces' simulation center and field hospital in Raadi, Tartu.