Two years ago Estonia’s strategic national security and defence documents put forward the idea of ‘psychological defence’ as a means to protect the values and cohesion of Estonian society from subversive influences.
Co-author: Merle Parmak (Estonian National Defence College)
The idea drew sharp criticism from some sections of society for being inappropriate for a democratic state, even though the intentions behind it were noble. The paper suggests that ‘societal resilience’ is a more attractive and relevant concept in strategy making because it reflects the inherent complexity of states, societies and their highly dynamic threat environments without carrying negative and antagonistic connotations. It is argued that by focusing on the constituent elements of ‘societal resilience’, e.g. human and social capital, Estonia can better prepare for a wide range of security stressors than by pursuing ‘psychological defence’. In addition, ‘societal resilience’ offers a more appealing narrative for engaging the non-governmental sector and civil society in national security affairs, and even for putting them at the forefront of national security efforts (a ‘whole-of-society approach’). The paper also examines the practices for building ‘military resilience’ and their relevance to society at large.