June 16, 2014

Two Birds, One Stone

In early June, the Estonian government moved to launch negotiations with the US for the purchase of third-generation Javelin anti-tank missile systems. What might seem like merely a deal to replace somewhat obsolete equipment made back in the Cold War is actually quite significant for several reasons.

In early June, the Estonian government moved to launch negotiations with the US for the purchase of third-generation Javelin anti-tank missile systems. What might seem like merely a deal to replace somewhat obsolete equipment made back in the Cold War is actually quite significant for several reasons.

First of all, it shows that a country that spends more on defence than average in Europe has more options. A country can always increase efficiency and spend a smaller defence budget with greater precision, but ultimately the amount of money does count. And today Estonia can afford to buy state-of-the-art defence technology.
Second, this procurement gives Estonia another lifeline to the world’s pre-eminent superpower. The fact that Estonia and the US will be using the same weapons system makes it possible to supply additional munitions to the Estonian Defence Forces in a hypothetical crisis or wartime situation. And of course, other than air-defence missiles, one would be hard pressed to name a more costly type of land-based munitions than anti-tank missiles – the price per missile dwarfs the cost of any artillery shell or mortar bomb; moreover, anti-tank missiles have a relatively short shelf life, requiring the frequent replacement of stockpiles. While Estonia can accumulate stores of other types of munitions sufficient to last several weeks in a battle situation, it would be bordering on unrealistic to expect to do the same with anti-tank missiles. This procurement makes it possible for the US to provide significant support to Estonia in a worst-case scenario.
Such a scenario might indeed become reality, considering Estonia’s proximity to a neighbour that apparently lacks control over its military hardware, with tanks and other armoured vehicles known to stray over national borders. With this purchase, Estonia kills two birds with one stone: the Defence Forces get a top-flight weapons system, while Estonia stands to be well supplied with key munitions in the event of a real shooting war.

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