War of words breaks out on defense spending

  • 2007-07-09
  • From wire reports
TALLINN 's A British former defense attache has launched a scathing attack on Estonia's Defense Ministry, claiming that its officials do not understand the value of their budget and are guilty of a "criminal" waste of money.

Lt. Col. Glen Grant served as both Britain's defense attache to Estonia and later as an adviser to the Defense Ministry.

Grant told the Eesti Paevaleht daily that while an adviser, he tried to guide Defense Ministry officials toward a more creative approach to spending. "It is criminal to waste money by carrying on doing something that doesn't work. You'll be wasting taxpayers' money," he said.

Estonian defense forces haven't yet understood the value of money, says Grant, suggesting that they are given the funds they need and are not forced to justify or economise on their spending.

As he sees it, Estonia is building a highly regulated, large, slow and cumbersome system. Work methods are much more flexible elsewhere, he said.

Grant's criticisms met with a furious rebuttal from Maj. Gen. Ants Laaneots, commander of the Estonian defense forces. "I don't regard Mr. Grant as a sufficiently competent person who knows our defense forces," he said.

Unlike countries whose national defense and armed forces have been developing for centuries or at least decades, Estonia has had to build its forces from scratch in a very brief period of time, the army chief observed.

"If western armies are in possession of weapons and their personnel costs make up 40-50 percent of their budgets, we cannot raise personnel expenses above 30 percent because we need to build barracks that we lack, purchase missing armaments and equipment," he said.