Viewing cable 06TALLINN626
Title: ESTONIA RETHINKING AIR POLICING POLICY

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06TALLINN6262006-07-06 10:52:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tallinn
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TALLINN 000626 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/06/2016 
TAGS: NATO MOPS PGOV PINS PREL RS LG LH EN
SUBJECT: ESTONIA RETHINKING AIR POLICING POLICY 
 
Classified By: DCM Jeff Goldstein for reasons 1.4 (b) & (d) 
 
¶1. (C) Summary.  Air Policing (AP) remains one of the top 
military/security priorities for the GOE representing, as 
it does, the only concrete security contribution Estonia 
receives from NATO membership.  Due to repeated Russian 
incursions into Estonian airspace over the years, the GOE 
feels that the current situation is no longer tenable and 
inadequate for Estonia's mid to long-term needs.  The 
Ministry of Defense (MOD) therefore produced an internal AP 
report assessing the current system and possible permanent 
long-term solutions.  While preferring to have a NATO 
solution, the MOD Report outlines several other possible 
alternatives: bilateral, regional, and unilateral.  Once 
the Report is approved, it will be put forward for 
governmental review with a decision timetable set for 
2008/2009.  While a consensus is far from being formed, 
noticeable divisions are already apparent within the MOD 
and MFA between those who want Estonia to develop its own 
AP capacity and those who believe it to be prohibitively 
expensive.  Depending on its eventual course of action, the 
GOE's decision on AP could have a real and substantive 
knock-on effect on Estonia's contributions to NATO and 
other out-of-area operations.  End Summary. 
 
THE STATUS QUO 
-------------- 
 
¶2. (SBU) Since Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia lack aircraft 
to protect their own airspace, NATO has been providing an 
interim 24/7 AP for Baltic airspace since 2004.  The 
current AP regime is set to last till the end of 2007. 
NATO's 24/7 AP coverage continues to be one of the GOE's 
highest priorities.  However, the September 2005 crash of a 
Russian SU-27 in Lithuania strengthened sentiment within 
the GOE that a permanent AP solution is needed to overcome 
the current system's shortcomings.  As GOE officials have 
often reminded us in our meetings (before and after the 
Lithuania crash), the NATO AP squadron based in Siauliai is 
so far away that the NATO planes are not able to arrive 
before Russian planes that have violated Estonian airspace 
are long gone. 
 
PROBLEM WITH STATUS QUO ONE: RESPONSE TIME 
------------------------------------------ 
 
¶3. (C) The GOE has recorded 53 air violations since October 
¶2003.  Forty-four of the incursions have taken place near 
Vaindloo Island and lasting no more than two minutes.  The 
most serious incursion took place in September 2003 which 
lasted over 20 minutes.  (Comment.  Since Estonia's 
membership in NATO, no overtly hostile incursions have 
taken place, though a wide range of military, bomber, and 
transport aircraft have committed air incursions.  We 
believe that the majority of these air incursions are not 
malicious in nature, but more as a result of old Soviet 
habits in which many Russian pilots cut across the small 
strip of Estonian air space as they did when it was once a 
part of the former USSR.  End Comment) 
 
¶4. (C) Notwithstanding the short duration of the majority 
of these incursions, the GOE and general public remain 
highly sensitive over air space violations.  While 
admitting that the threat is minimal, GOE officials have 
expressed their unhappiness over NATO's current inability 
to stop these incursions.  As Miko Haljas, MFA Director for 
Security Policy and Arms Control, said, "If the U.S. 
started to violate Canada's airspace, I'm sure the 
Canadians would know an American invasion was extremely 
unlikely, but would still not find the behavior 
acceptable."  Current NATO AP aircraft are not able to 
respond in time against these short incursions, nor can 
they remain for long periods of time patrolling the 
Estonian border due to fuel constraints.  The GOE has also 
pointed out that these shortcomings would also be a problem 
should terrorists attempt to use a civilian aircraft as a 
weapon against civilian, military, or governmental targets 
in Estonia. 
 
PROBLEM WITH STATUS QUO TWO: AFTER 2007, THEN WHAT? 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
¶5. (C) The GOE has also repeatedly expressed its discomfort 
 
TALLINN 00000626  002 OF 003 
 
 
over the lack of certainty regarding NATO AP rotations 
after 2007.  The GOE is well aware that some NATO Allies 
(i.e., Denmark, UK, etc.) want to do away with NATO AP 
altogether due to the low threat probability and/or change 
the current alert-based posture to a threat-based system in 
order to free up limited European resources.  The 
discussions emanating from some in the Department of 
Defense who share a similar view has also been followed 
closely by the GOE. 
 
¶6. (C) While preferring an alert-based AP system, the GOE 
has gradually come to support the current NATO AP Policy 
Review document, even though it contains language 
protecting OSD's desire for a "threat-based" AP scheme. 
However, the GOE is concerned by the lack of progress in 
adopting this compromise document.  The delay has only 
added to the GOE's sense of uncertainty over NATO's AP 
presence after 2007, giving more ammunition to those in the 
GOE advocating a home-grown solution. 
 
¶7. (SBU) The GOE understands the cost to NATO allies of 
contributing to Baltic AP.  In the GOE's eyes, however, 
Estonia has worked hard to fulfill its NATO obligations to 
transform its military and ensure interoperability through 
steady increases in defense spending (which is on track to 
reach NATO's 2% of GDP target by 2010) and proactive out- 
of-area military contributions in Iraq and Afghanistan. 
"AP is the one visible and tangible benefit of NATO 
membership," said Sander Soone, MFA Director General for 
Political Affairs, "that we can bring to the public to help 
justify not only our military reforms and spending, but 
also our troop contributions in Iraq and Afghanistan." 
Currently, Estonia has nearly 10% of its land forces 
serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Bosnia. 
 
 
ESTONIAN RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE FUTURE OF AP 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
¶8. (SBU) Dissatisfied with the current AP regime's 
shortcomings, the GOE mandated the MOD to produce an 
internal AP analysis report.  While we have not seen an 
actual copy of the report, the MOD provided an overview to 
the DATT and Poloff on June 5. 
 
¶9. (C) The report does not make any final recommendation, 
nor has it yet been approved by the government as a whole. 
In all likelihood, the GOE will not make a final decision 
until at least 2008.  As it currently stands, the report 
lays out several possible scenarios: modifying and making 
the current NATO AP coverage permanent; a bilateral or 
regional arrangement for AP coverage; and a 
unilateral/domestic response with Estonian aircraft.  The 
objective is for the MOD to devote 8-9% of its defense 
budget by 2018 to AP whatever the GOE decides.  Though some 
monies will have to be siphoned from other areas (i.e., 
operations), the MOD is confident that due to the steady 
increase of defense spending and the projected economic 
growth rate (presently close to 10%) it will not have to 
divert funds from other areas. 
 
¶10. (SBU) As part of the MOD's long term plan, it will 
upgrade Amari airbase.  Estonia has received confirmation 
of NATO Capability Package funding for the initial phase of 
Amari's upgrade ($28 million).  The GOE will provide an 
additional $40 million (though not all the funding has yet 
been approved).  The MOD's timetable for the completion of 
Amari's upgrade is 2018.  The MOD envisions Amari having 
the capacity to base up to a dozen F-16s and two to three 
C-17s.  The upgraded Amari airbase is planned to feature 
prominently in whatever Estonia's AP policy is. 
 
SCENARIO ONE: NATO AIRCRAFT BASED IN ESTONIA? 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
¶11. (C) GOE officials have all agreed that their first 
choice is to have NATO AP coverage made permanent but with 
some key modifications.  The report insists on the 
continuation of 24/7 coverage and recommends that rotations 
be longer (one figure mentioned in our briefing was six 
months) and involve a core group of NATO allies willing to 
contribute permanently.  Poland, Denmark, Germany, Norway, 
and the United States were all mentioned as possible 
 
TALLINN 00000626  003 OF 003 
 
 
contributors.  Finally, the report recommends having some 
of the AP aircraft actually based in Estonia at Amari 
airbase in order to deal with the short incursions and 
possible renegades. 
 
SCENARIO TWO: BILATERAL AND/OR REGIONAL AP ARRANGEMENT? 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
¶12. (C) The report also explores the possibility of 
bilateral and/or regional agreements.  One scenario would 
involve Poland extending its AP coverage to Lithuania with 
Finland expanding its AP coverage to include Estonia and 
Latvia.  (However, the GOE has reservations over the 
practicality of an agreement with a non-NATO member such as 
Finland.)  The Estonians have not yet approached the Poles 
or Finns to discuss this idea.  Another option is for all 
three Balts to pool resources to procure and maintain 
aircraft.  While the report has been shown to both 
Lithuania and Latvia, no serious discussions on this 
subject have taken place. 
 
SCENARIO THREE: AN ESTONIAN AIR FORCE? 
-------------------------------------- 
 
¶13. (C) The most controversial option is for Estonia to 
acquire its own aircraft.  The MOD believes that 2018 is 
realistically the earliest date the GOE can afford this. 
The report outlines a number of options for Estonia to 
acquire aircraft.  The most feasible plan is for Estonia to 
acquire second-hand aircraft from other NATO allies for 
free (i.e., recently decommissioned) or at a reduced price. 
There has been some informal talk in the MOD and MFA about 
acquiring some of Sweden's aging Grippens.  Some mid- to 
senior-level MOD and MFA officials still even mention the 
Javelin as a possibility.  (The Javelin is a U.S. designed 
aircraft not yet in production designed principally to deal 
with renegades.) 
 
¶14. (C) In our meetings with the MFA and MOD, a number of 
officials have openly expressed their preference for 
"Estonian pilots in Estonian aircraft to patrol Estonian 
skies."  MOD Policy Planning Director Sven Sakkov admitted 
that even with its own aircraft, Estonia could not mount a 
serious defense of its airspace against Russia but that the 
purpose of Estonian aircraft is mainly to act as physical 
deterrence against further Russian incursions.  The Finnish 
model (of shadowing their Russian counterparts in the air 
to escort, monitor, and photograph any and all Russian 
incursions) is the example GOE officials most often cite. 
 
¶15. (C) Comment.  We believe most of the GOE officials 
involved understand that procuring fighter aircraft would 
be a bad use of limited military resources and diminish 
Estonia's contributions to the GWOT and NATO operations. 
The fact that they are willing to consider such a solution 
indicates how important, psychologically and politically, 
the Air Policing issue is here in Estonia.  It is important 
that this aspect be kept squarely in mind as debate 
continues on what to do about the NATO Air Police Mission 
after 2007. 
WOS