Estonia became a NATO member in 2004 and is host to the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCD COE) in Tallinn. The CCD COE is the 10th Centre of Excellence to gain full NATO accreditation by the North Atlantic Council. Its doors opened in May 2008 in order to conduct research and training on cyber warfare and to develop NATO standards and capabilities for cyber defence.
According to the Estonian National Military Representative at SHAPE, Brigadier General Peeter Hoppe, "Estonia's first contribution to NATO was in 2005 when the flagship of the Estonian Navy Admiral Pitka served 10 months as staff and support vessel of Standing NATO Response Force Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1). Current NATO operations include Estonia as we are contributing to International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Kosovo Force (KFOR), and the NATO Training mission in Iraq.” For KFOR, Estonia is contributing staff officers and one reconnaissance platoon. Estonia's contribution to ISAF includes a logistical support element, a cross service team to Kabul International Airport (KAIA), and a mechanized infantry company that is engaged in operations in the Helmand province in southern Afghanistan within a brigade of the United Kingdom. There are currently 150 Estonian troops contributing to the ISAF mission. This contribution is the fourth highest per capita after the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Norway. As of July 2009, Estonia will have the largest contributor per capita as the Estonian parliament has decided to send an additional mechanized company to support the Afghanistan elections.
The average size of the Estonian Regular Armed Forces in peacetime is approximately 6500 active duty members consisting of 6000 Army, 300 Navy, and 200 Air Force personnel. Fifteen hundred of these are conscripts. The duration of compulsory military service in Estonia is eight to 11 months, depending on the education and position provided by the Defence Forces. Conscripts assist civilian authorities and Estonian Defence Forces in the event of national emergencies that include but are not limited to wildfires, flooding, and search and rescue operations. Colonel Kiviselg explained what amount of gross national product his nation devotes to armed forces. "The percentage of GNP devoted to armed forces at the present moment is 1.75%. It was 1.9% before economic decline and is planned to increase to 2.0% in 2010.” In response to NATO trying to become a more agile and expeditionary force, Estonia approved the Estonian Defence Forces Development Plan 2009-2018, which specifies a decisive increase in defence ability that includes early warning, intelligence, anti-aircraft, anti-tank and mechanized units. The plan is the first Estonian research-based document drafted with relevant methodologies of NATO.
Colonel Kiviselg says seventy-three percent of the Estonian population supports Estonia's membership to NATO, while 81% favours their defence forces. "Estonia does not have challenges recruiting for their armed forces, but hopes to recruit more young men and women who will seek commissions.”
For more information about Estonia's military forces visit their national webpage or contact the National Military Representative for more detailed information.