Chief of staff resigns as military reform continues

  • 2002-05-23
  • Aleksei Gunter, TALLINN
Colonel Lieutenant Aarne Ermus, the Estonian Defense Forces' chief of staff, handed in his resignation on May 16 as the Estonian army prepares for a massive rotation of personnel tied to the NATO membership plan.

The defense forces, acting in line with NATO demands, filed the draft project of the army's new structure and dislocation to the Cabinet. Two defense district commanders, two special defense district commanders and a number of officers from the new infantry brigade make up the vacancy list, according to the project.

The primary tasks of the Estonian army staff will also change, and the chief of staff's duties will be mostly administrative, rather than military. A number of senior officers will be sent abroad to fulfill NATO cooperation tasks.

According to the Estonian army press service, the main priorities of the Estonian defense forces are to improve its rapid reaction and general combat skills. The creation of a rapid reaction battalion, an infantry brigade and staff reforms are practical steps in that direction.

"My resignation had a very simple and human explanation. I've been working (as chief of staff) for three years, and I feel like having a little rest," said Ermus, who is 36 years old.

He added that he was not going to retire from the army.

Vice Admiral Tarmo Kouts, commander of the Estonian Defense Forces, announced last week that he has a candidate to fill the vacancy, but declined to disclose his identity. He added that there was plenty of time left before the defense forces' reforms are due to be finished, and there was no urgent rush to find a new chief of staff.

The local press reported that Ermus resigned as a result of "old quarrels" among Estonian army staff, but neither officials nor army officers would confirm that.

Minister of Defense Sven Mikser said there had been no "long-term disagreements" in the defense forces staff. "Basically the resignation of Ermus was a routine thing since he had been in that position for three years, and there will be a certain internal reorganization in the staff of the defense forces and the structure of the defense forces themselves," he said.

According to Mikser, one of the priorities in the development of the Estonian defense forces today is the build-up of an infantry brigade for territorial defense and building up the Estonian battalion to satisfy the requirements of NATO's Article 5.

"There will be new challenges as new positions emerge in connection with NATO integration. Once we get the invitation there will be new posts available, and I think that Colonel Lieutenant Ermus will have these things in mind," said Mikser.