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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06TALLINN626
2006-07-06 10:52:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Tallinn
Cable title:  

ESTONIA RETHINKING AIR POLICING POLICY

Tags:   NATO  MOPS  PGOV  PINS  PREL  RS  LG  LH  EN 
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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