Ruutel supports Estonia's participation in Iraq

  • 2006-08-31
  • By TBT staff
President Arnold Ruutel emphasized the importance of Estonia's role in the Iraq mission, saying that the nation's soldiers have helped maintain stabilization in Iraq.

If Estonia and other peace-keeping allies gave up on this goal, a civil war could break out and spread into Iraq's neighboring countries, Ruutel said in an interview with the daily Eesti Paevaleht.

"It is important for Estonia to take part in the mission, because the more security there is in the world, the more security we will have here in Estonia," Ruutel said. "I hope parliament will make a balanced, rather than populist decision here."

As for the Batlic state's defense policy, Ruutel said he was generally in favor of investing in collective defense or NATO. Yet he emphasized that the national army must ensure Estonia's primary defense capacity.

"Universal military service must be kept, perhaps shortening its duration if necessary, while still providing basic knowledge to all young men," the president said. Ruutel also mentioned the need to find a new commander for the defense forces in connection with the resignation of commander Vice Adm. Tarmo Kouts.

"It is still early to start speculating with names. I must talk with the government, the defense ministry and the defense forces commander who is still in office."

Ruutel said he had held talks already, but they were only halfway finished and before presenting a candidate to Parliament, the issue should be discussed in the State Defense Council.

Ruutel will most likely take on a second term as president, after parliament failed to elect Social-Democrat Toomas Hendrik Ilves, and Ene Ergma, deputy speaker of parliament, candidate earlier this week.

The election will now move on to the electoral college, which will convene on Sept. 23. Ilves will be running against Ruutel but since the Center Party and the People's Union form two-thirds of the ruling coalition, Ruutel will most definitely win.