This article considers Estonia’s contribution, since May 2015, of an infantry company to the Finnish contingent of the Finnish/Irish battalion of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. It is intended to provide a case study of a small European state’s involvement in UN peacekeeping in the ‘post-Afghanistan’ security environment. Drawing on interviews with Estonian officials and peacekeepers, it sets out the rationale for Estonia’s contribution and explores the degree to which participation has met the expectations of the Estonian defence leadership. It concludes that participation in UNIFIL has largely been a valuable policy, both politically and for the defence forces.
While potential threats from Russia and NATO collective defence commitments are similar for Latvia and Estonia, both countries have adopted different approaches in the balancing exercise between territorial defence and military solidarity. Notwithstanding their differences, both are by their nature fully non-aggressive – without room for pre-emptive initiatives, extra territoriality or asymmetrical tools. Given that in a case of a hypothetical large-scale conventional attack both countries would almost entirely have to rest on the allies, external military solidarity is essential. Until the Ukraine crisis, both offered more military solidarity towards their NATO allies than the latter offered to them. As the result of the Ukrainian crisis, allies became more military-solidary with the Baltic nations, especially having established the Enhanced Forward Presence, while Estonian and especially Latvian contributions to international missions and operations dropped. Therefore, it is suggested that both countries increase their efforts to the allied international endeavours.
Since regaining independence in 1990 and creating its regular armed forces, Lithuania has had to
do a balancing act. It has had to balance between different approaches of state defence, military structure, collective and national defence. Due to events in Ukraine Lithuania had to reconfigure this balance. The Russian threat forced to emphasize strategy of territorial defence, which altogether required tying up forces and enlarging its numbers by bringing back conscription, substantially increased defence budget, followed by higher tempo and scale in procurement and training. However, Lithuania has managed to maintain its activity and participation in international military operations and political initiatives. Its recent contributions have led to an assumption that its participation in various military missions in the future will not diminish, quite the opposite. Increasing the framework of cooperation in terms of defence and security initiatives will involve Lithuania more deeply and will require further contributions.