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Departing Estonian Air Chief Says, NATO Needs to Enhance Its Response Time

Over the last ten years, Estonia has observed Russia get better at coordinating its army operations. And that’s an issue…

By Brooks Schroth , in Defense News , at July 18, 2019 4:57 AM EDT Tags: , , ,

Over the last ten years, Estonia has observed Russia get better at coordinating its army operations. And that’s an issue for the departing Estonian air force leader, who worries that NATO’s response may not come fast enough during a war.

“We all know that NATO will act. Period. However, sure, there is some concern about how briskly the first response will occur due to the character of independent nations cooperating,” Col. Riivo Valge, chief of the Estonian air force stated in an exclusive interview.

When comparing Russia’s strikes in Georgia in 2008 to its use of army force today, Russia has gotten more expert in coordinating its joint force, propaganda, and air operations, Valge stated. However, one problem is that NATO member nations perceive Russia’s behavior in another way, and thus have different concepts on what forms an actionable risk.

Valge stated he would like to see more activities with America and its different allies, and that those training alternatives are more closely involved.

Estonia is also excited about bolstering its air defenses and is considering collectively developing and acquiring a system with the other Baltic states, Lithuania, and  Latvia.

Estonia has consistently spent 2% of its GDP on its army to reach NATO spending commitments and has promised to retain that level of dedication until at least 2023. Nonetheless, its air force is small and with limited capability.

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein, who visited Estonia for the first time on Saturday, stated one of his priorities was to reassure delegates like Valge that the US stands ready to return to assistance from its NATO allies — a message Goldfein said Valge understood.