Merilo: Future scenario for Estonia could be very challenging

Commander of the 1st Infantry Brigade Col. Andrus Merilo, told “AK” that his nomination as a candidate for the EDF chief did not surprise him, but the offer came sooner than expected. The final rationale was that the threat of possible war in Estonia is serious and must be addressed.

Did you decide to run for the position of EDF chief right away, or did you take some time to think about it?

Now we are actually talking about a candidacy. I think things have been rushed a little bit, because there’s already talk about the position of the chief of the EDF, while at the moment I’m only a candidate and, of course, the organization has prepared me for this job, but the moment when this decision has to be made came earlier than my whole career in the service had anticipated. So let’s just say that I am a candidate.

Of course, when the minister of defense announced the nomination – I’m not saying it was surprising – it was unexpected because of the timing. It would not be appropriate to say “no” straight away, but I gave in to the thinking that I might be at a different stage in my career right now, and that it could be better to prepare myself for the next time I apply for the job. In that respect, I need some time to think about it, but right now the situation is such that if a decision is made, I am prepared to accept it, and I am also absolutely certain that I have the support of the EDF, which is very important.

What were the arguments for and against the nomination?

Now you’re returning to the subject, which I’m attempting to avoid since, as a candidate, I don’t believe it’s appropriate for me to speculate in advance. But, of course, I have considered many things. I weighed both my personal strengths and shortcomings while assessing the most likely future scenario for Estonia. And, to be honest, I think the future scenario for Estonia will be difficult. In fact, that was the main reason why I did not push back at one point. I stopped thinking I wasn’t ready for it.

Indeed, the new chief of the Defense Forces is taking office at a rather difficult time, and many changes lie ahead. What exactly should this job be?

The biggest challenge that lies ahead and for which all members of the EDF have been working for many years, including our present general staff and especially the chief of the EDF, who has put his heart and soul into it, is to do everything possible to prevent the possible war that might lie ahead.

The new commander of the defense forces will also have to get along well with the politicians in the government. What is your relationship with them?

My relationship with politics today is that, as a member of the Defense Forces, I have taken an oath to defend the Estonian people against any enemy. Politicians operate in the same way, ensuring that Estonia’s future is secure and competitive with the rest of the world. In this sense, my relationship with politicians is professional and has always been constructive.

Traditionally, a general is appointed to head the defense forces. You are a colonel by rank; do you see this as a concern?

I don’t see any fundamental conflict here, because I’ve been trained, and the Estonian state, particularly the EDF, has invested heavily in me, with the expectation that the time will come when such decisions must be taken.

According to the rotation schedule, I would have been on the so-called “list of generals” this year anyway, and I would have had to hand over command of the brigade during the summer. So I don’t see it as a conflict; it might seem baffling from the outside, but I don’t think it is inside the organization.

We also know that the position of chief of the EDF is not passed down, in some way, but a political choice that weighs different opinions. Today, we have a situation in which a colonel who has served in the defense forces for over 30 years and has advanced through all levels, may have to miss one step. But, in the big scheme of things, this shouldn’t be that unusual.

To what extent do you personally see a need for changes in the command structure of the EDF?

‘m not going to comment on it right now; it’s something the next chief will have to deal with in one way or another.

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