Would PESCO and a European Army Make Estonians Feel More Secure? By Viljar Veebel
Viljar Veebel investigates the initial question from several points of view. Based on survey results, he notes that Estonian security circles see Russia as the main current and future threat. At the same time, in this context, NATO is perceived as the main guarantor of credible deterrence and defense.
When it comes to new initiatives and visions in the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy, reactions are relatively clear-cut: Politicians, the military, and the public are skeptical toward the idea of a “European army”; they feel it adds no value in terms of security policy, and in any case would be difficult or impossible to implement. Interestingly, views toward PESCO are much more positive. According to the author, Permanent Structured Cooperation can expand the EU’s military capabilities, for example, and it also sends a signal of effective cooperation both internally and externally (to Russia). He provides plenty of evidence for both.
The reasons for these different assessments are understandable, Veebel believes. Estonia (just like its neighbors Latvia and Lithuania) does not wish in any way to call NATO into question as the main security guarantor. PESCO fits better with this position than the long-term goal of a common army, which raises many questions. It is a more pragmatic approach, which is hoped to bring benefits for the country’s own defense firms as well. In principle, the author argues, the Estonian public could be made more aware of the potential benefits of closer cooperation in security and defense policy – both in military terms and for integration into the EU more generally.
To conclude, Veebel briefly looks at reactions in Russian foreign media to both initiatives. While the European army attracted little interest, PESCO was portrayed as a senseless waste of money and a (militarily completely insufficient) provocation. This harsh criticism suggests that Russia actually feels threatened by the EU’s move toward closer cooperation in security and defense.