Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 147

Estonian president Lennart Meri reluctantly asked December 4 for the resignation of the army commander, Lt. General Alexander Einseln, in order to end a month-long public conflict between Einseln and defense minister Andrus Oovel. Unlike Oovel, who had impugned Einseln’s overall performance, Meri praised Einseln’s merits but faulted him for having escalated and politicized the personal conflict. On the same day Meri nominated Johannes Kert as army commander. Reflecting official concern that the affair risked damaging Estonia’s standing with Western military partners, Parliament defense committee chairman Peeter Lorents called on Western countries to "understand that our democracy is still in its infancy." (13)

Einseln, a retired US Army colonel, returned to his native Estonia to take command of its army in 1992, and will stay in the country. Kert, whose nomination is subject to parliamentary approval, is the head of Kaitsellit (Defense League), a country-wide volunteer paramilitary organization. Just days prior to his forced resignation, Einseln had described Kaitsellit as the country’s most effective defense force at present (while the army is still being formed) and called for greater state support for it. The nomination of Kert seems to presage a more important role for Kaitsellit in building Estonia’s army.

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