Foreign policy and defense
Estonia's membership in NATO and in the EU
from 2004 forms the basis of the country's security and
foreign policy. Estonia is one of America's most
faithful allies. Relations with Russia are complicated
and have deteriorated in recent years in the tense
conflict between NATO and the Moscow government.
Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian Crimean
Peninsula in March 2014 and the subsequent fighting in
eastern Ukraine created concern among the Estonians that
Russian provocations should also be directed at their
own country. NATO began to build up a military presence
in Estonia (see below), which in turn was answered with
more Russian maneuvers near the Baltic States and
repeated violations of Estonian airspace.
Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Estonia for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
When US President Barack Obama visited Tallinn in
September 2014, he gave the country an assurance of US
and NATO support. NATO's desire to guard its eastern
flank was challenged later that month when Russia seized
an Estonian intelligence officer at the border and
accused him of spying. According to Russia, the arrest
took place on Russian soil, but according to Estonia, he
was carried away by weapons threats from the Estonian
side. Estonia then decided to erect a fence with
high-tech surveillance along the Russian border.
For harsh sanctions against Russia
Russia has long accused Estonia of discriminating
against its Russian minority and has demanded that
Russian be an official language in Estonia and that all
Russians there should have the right to vote. Therefore,
when Russia motivated the annexation of Crimea with the
need to protect the Russian-speaking population of the
peninsula, it raised concerns in western countries that
the Russian-dominated Narva area was also threatened. In
Tallinn, however, these speculations have been rejected
Since the independence of the Soviet Union in 1991,
Estonia has wanted to enter into a border agreement with
Russia. One of these was closed after tough negotiations
in 2005 but was torn up in disagreement. Following new
negotiations, in the spring of 2014, signs of a new
agreement came, but just over a week later Russia
invaded Crimea and the border agreement was not
Estonia has been a leading voice within NATO and the
EU for vigorous reactions to Russia's involvement in the
conflict in Ukraine. Estonia has advocated continued EU
sanctions against the Russian government, despite the
country's significant exports falling due to the import
ban imposed by Russia in response to EU sanctions.
Estonia has used its experience of EU adaptation to
seek to approach other former Soviet republics to the EU,
primarily Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. A priority in
Estonia's foreign policy is the Eastern Partnership, the
EU's deepening of relations with these three countries,
as well as Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus.
Democratization and stability in the immediate area are
crucial to Estonia's security policy.
Faithful NATO and the United States
Estonia has close cooperation with Latvia and
Lithuania, including in regular governmental meetings,
the Baltic Parliamentary Assembly and the Baltic Council
of Ministers. Baltic sea cooperation, especially on
energy and environmental issues, is also important.
Relations are close with Finland and Sweden, which are
major investors and trading partners.
Following the liberation from the Soviet Union,
Estonia built up its own defense force with support from
the Nordic countries in the form of military training
and equipment. Selective military duty prevails. There
is also a voluntary protection corps, similar to the
Estonia sees the NATO membership as its primary
security guarantee and the country is committed to being
loyal to the United States and other NATO members.
Estonian troops were included in the 2003 US-led
operation in Iraq and Estonia has participated in
NATO-led operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo as well as
in UN forces in Lebanon and Mali. Estonia is one of the
few NATO countries that meets the Alliance's requirement
that two percent of the gross domestic product (GDP)
should go to defense.
Estonia's desire for NATO to deploy troops in the
country was fulfilled after the Russian annexation of
Crimea, when the United States sent 150 NATO soldiers to
practice with the Estonian military. At the same time,
Nato placed four fighter planes at the Ämari air base to
monitor Estonia's airspace. Weapons and equipment were
also stored in the country. An Estonian request to
expand NATO's presence in the country was obeyed in
2016, when Nato maneuvered with 6,000 men in Estonia and
decided to station about 1,000 soldiers there. The new
NATO troops arrived in early 2017. Since 2008, NATO has
had a cyber security center in Estonia.
FACTS - DEFENSE
5,700 men (2017)
The air Force
500 men (2017)
400 men (2017)
Military expenditure's share of GDP
2.1 percent (2017)
Military spending's share of the state budget
5.2 percent (2017)
Vigorous race for GDP
In the wake of the financial crisis, Estonia's GDP fell by more than 14
percent during the year.
The opposition takes power locally in Tallinn
The opposition wins the municipal election in the capital Tallinn, where the
Center Party's controversial leader Edgar Savisaar becomes mayor with the
support of the Social Democrats.
Budget cuts divide the government
The government is split after budget cuts in the wake of the financial
crisis, with, among other things, reduced public wages. The Social Democrats
leave the coalition, and the Reform Party and the right-wing Alliance IRL rule
in a minority under Andrus Ansip's leadership.