II. Country Assessment--Estonia

U.S. Government Assistance to and Cooperative Activities with Central and Eastern Europe
Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
January 2007

Country Overview

Country Facts
  • Map of EstoniaArea: 17,462 sq mi (45,226 sq km), slightly smaller than New Hampshire and Vermont combined
  • Population: 1,324,333 (July 2006 est.) 
  • Population Growth Rate: -0.64% (2006 est.) 
  • Life Expectancy: Male 66.58 yrs., Female 77.83 yrs. (2006 est.)
  • Infant Mortality: 7.73 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.) 
  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP): $22.29 billion (purchasing power parity; 2005 est.) 
  • GDP Per Capita Income: $16,700 (purchasing power parity; 2005 est.) 
  • Real GDP Growth: 9.6% (2005 est.)

Overview of U.S. Government Assistance

In FY 2006, the USG provided an estimated $7.02 million in assistance to Estonia, including:

  • $0.97 million in democratic reform programs; 
  • $0.16 million in economic reform programs; and 
  • $5.89 million in security, regional stability, and law enforcement programs.

The last year for new SEED bilateral funding to Estonia was FY 1996, although some additional SEED funds for public diplomacy and Democracy Commission grants were provided through FY 2003. Some activities funded through SEED from prior fiscal years continued in FY 2006. Other forms of USG assistance to Estonia continued through FY 2006 including Foreign Operations Appropriations Act International Military Education and Training funds, and Foreign Military Financing funds. Estonia also received support from the ECA Bureau's Educational and Cultural Exchanges account.

FY 2006 Assistance Overview


Estonia occupies a strategic corner of the Nordic-Baltic region, sharing common borders with Russia and Latvia and located roughly 50 miles across the Gulf of Finland from Helsinki. Along with its Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania, Estonia formally joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU) in spring 2004. Estonia supports U.S. foreign and strategic policy interests, including at the United Nations (UN) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In support of the Global War on Terror (GWOT), Estonian troops participate in military-security operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Estonia contributes to the NATO-led Kosovo Enforcement Force (KFOR) and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operations in Afghanistan. Estonia's commitment to a liberal, open-market economy has created a strong investment climate and helped generate sustained economic growth. The U.S. has a clear interest in maintaining close relations with this ally in order to bolster solid partnerships with the EU and NATO and to further U.S. global policy objectives. The burdens of EU and NATO membership, together with expensive deployments in support of operations in Afghanistan, the Balkans and the Middle East, continue to stretch Estonian Government (GOE) resources. Continued U.S. support for Estonia will allow the GOE to modernize its military so as to better meet its obligations in these areas, while also consolidating gains in dealing with regional "soft security" challenges.


In FY 2006, Estonia exhausted most of its remaining transitional development assistance funds, which had phased out previously with the exception of assistance in peace and security. Also, the U.S. funded educational and cultural exchange programs.


Estonia fully subscribes to President Bush's call to "support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." In FY 2006, Estonia maintained its deployment of troops in Iraq where they serve shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. soldiers in counter-insurgency operations. Even though the Estonians have suffered casualties, including two killed in action, the Parliament will likely extend Estonia's troop commitment for another year. In addition, Estonia: participated in a UK-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in Helmand province, one of the most volatile and dangerous regions in Afghanistan, where they are involved in poppy eradication. The Estonians increased their contribution from 80 to 120; continued to participate in the NATO training mission in Iraq and the international police training mission for Iraq in Jordan; continued to provide peacekeepers for international missions in both Bosnia and Kosovo; and, supported democratic developments in key countries of the former Soviet Union and beyond by providing law enforcement training to Georgia and Kazakhstan, e-governance assistance to a wide range of countries, civil defense assistance to Armenia, and training for future diplomats from Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova.

Bilateral cooperation continues to produce excellent results. However, the USG faces several challenges in ensuring that the U.S. will still be able to count on Estonia as a like-minded ally in the future. The primary challenge is to ensure that the underlying basis of the relationship remains strong.

FY 2006 Country Program Performance

Governing Justly and Democratically

Estonia's independent media are active and express a wide variety of views without government restriction. The OSCE has concluded that Estonian public television generally seeks to give equal access to all electoral candidates and to cover campaigns impartially. Estonia's constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the GOE generally respects this provision in practice. While there are some incidences of corruption in government, the GOE continues to investigate charges of corruption aggressively. Estonia placed 24th (out of 163 countries) in Transparency International's 2006 ranking of perceived corruption.

A three-party coalition led by Prime Minister Andrus Ansip's Reform Party has governed Estonia since April 2005. The government came into office promising to maintain high standards of government ethics, lower the flat-tax rate, and offer social support that would lead to increased family sizes. Buoyed by strong income from a growing economy, the government has had generally good success in implementing its domestic agenda. Ansip's government is also continuing its strong support for the U.S. and NATO.


Although Estonia no longer receives USG traditional development assistance to democratic reform, there is still work that needs to be done. For example, the integration of Estonia's Russian-speakers is not complete. A shortage of qualified teachers continues to hamper efforts in the predominantly Russian-speaking northeastern part of Estonia. However, the GOE has taken steps to ease citizenship requirements and is improving opportunities for non-citizens - particularly Russian-speaking youth - to learn Estonian. In many ways, the solution to Estonia's integration challenge will come simply with time. Younger generations born into Russian-speaking families are already starting to recognize the economic usefulness of mastering Estonian, not to mention having many opportunities to learn the language in ways earlier generations did not. As a result, USG assistance programs are designed to bring people of different backgrounds together by exploring shared themes, particularly through the arts. This is in accordance with the USG strategy to promote a cultural, educational, and political dialogue, and when possible touch in some way on issues of cultural tolerance and respect.


The USG carried out three educational and cultural exchange programs in Estonia in FY 2006. U.S. sculptor John Ruppert traveled to Estonia to install three sculptures for the opening of Estonia's new KUMU art museum. The opening of KUMU was the biggest event to take place in Estonia's cultural history since it regained independence in 1991. Ruppert's sculptures were featured on every one of Estonia's four major evening news broadcasts and were shown repeatedly on Estonian TV's Estonian- and Russian-language evening news programs as well as on ETV's and Kanal 2's evening news programs.

USG program funds also brought the musical group Grupo Yanqui to Estonia to play their Brooklyn-grown Latin Jazz. Among other performances, Grupo Yanqui played the first ever concert at the KUMU art museum. Grupo Yanqui also played to over 500 Estonians in order to teach master classes for arts managers at both the Estonian Music Academy as well as to young musicians at Tallinn's high school for the performing arts. The group helped Estonians learn how music helps connect the U.S. and Estonia.

Finally, the Black Nights Film Festival received a grant to cover part of the screening fee, transportation to Estonia, and translation costs of American feature films and documentaries presented at the Tartu Film Festival "Tartuff." In cooperation with the University of Tartu and foreign embassies, the festival included a seminar on cultural tolerance. The festival was free of charge, and had all together 9,500 visitors and garnered significant news coverage in Estonian media. The USG grant allowed the organizers of a well-regarded film festival to screen American movies with themes of cultural tolerance to a broad audience in Tartu, Estonia's second city and the home to Estonia's leading university.

Peace and Security

Estonia has developed a policy of international security co-operation through participation in crisis regulations and peacekeeping organizations. Estonia deployed approximately 300 personnel in FY 2006 to support UN, NATO, and coalition military operations and will increase its commitment in FY 2007. That number represents almost 10% of Estonia's military, well above the European average in terms of per capita contributions and a good indication of Estonia's willingness and ability to contribute to global security. In 2006, Estonia began participating in a British-led Provincial Recovery Team (PRT) in one of the most dangerous regions of Afghanistan, and will expand its participation there in 2007 to 120. Estonia also reauthorized deployment of an infantry platoon under U.S. command in Baghdad in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Estonia continues to support European Union Force (EUFOR) missions in Bosnia as well as NATO in Kosovo with nearly 120 Peacekeepers. These deployments have become more complex operationally as the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) demonstrate increasing readiness and growing interoperability with coalition forces. Continuing participation in NATO exercises, as well as active involvement in Marshall Center courses and seminars have accelerated Estonia's integration into NATO structures and programs.


The first priority for security assistance in Estonia is to continue support for the professional development of the Estonian defense system. This ensures that Estonia continues to support positions in key Euro-Atlantic organizations that are in line with U.S. interests, and will also further strengthen Estonia's response in the war against terrorism. Funded training opportunities promote military professionalism that will allow Estonia to deploy troops that possess the skills needed in today's coalition-led environment.


In FY 2006, USG assistance for military education and training promoted military professionalism within the Ministry of Defense (MOD), EDF, and Border Guard and provided training otherwise unavailable in Estonia. Estonia used military assistance funds to purchase equipment, training, and services that increased their military professionalism, self-defense capabilities, and ensured interoperability with NATO and coalition structures and forces. The priority use of these funds was to enhance an entire network of standardized, secure-mode capable, NATO-interoperable communications systems from the national/strategic level to the tactical level, and to improve Estonia's training capability. During FY 2006, the USG re-established its funding relationship with the De-mining Center, Estonia's national mine and unexploded ordnance clearing organization. USG assistance supported an expert assessment of local procedures, which made recommendations to improve safety and operational techniques. Additionally, the USG provided administrative equipment needed to upgrade the De-mining Center, allowing it to improve response time, more effectively train de-mining teams, and enhance overall effectiveness.

Additionally, the USG sent three Estonian police from the Financial Intelligence Unit to work with the U.S. Department of Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. The USG also sent two Estonian police officers to a Global Intellectual Property Academy in Virginia, hosted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Finally, USG assistance procured computer equipment for to the Public Service Academy's FBI-model based Computer Analysis Response Team. The equipment will be used to train Estonian law enforcement personnel in computer forensics.


The USG-provided military education program funded the training of 65 Estonian military and defense associated personnel in the United States. This program helped Estonia work toward its goals of increased military professionalism, self-defense capability, NATO interoperability, and developing well-trained deployable forces for NATO and coalition operations. Estonia participated in training on three levels: the national/strategic level, where priority was placed on attendance at war colleges, the Naval Post-Graduate School, and the Defense Resource Management Institute; the operational level, where assistance focused on staff colleges, executive courses, and mobile training teams; and, the tactical level, where the courses consisted of specialized training for junior officers (career courses and non-commissioned officer development courses). Expanded courses continued to provide critical training for defense policy and resource planners at the MOD. Mobile training teams trained MOD and General Staff officials on defense article purchasing practices and helped them establish internal procedures to make procurement more effective and efficient. Additionally, a mobile training team from the U.S. assisted EDF non-commissioned officers (NCOs) establish and write an effective program of instruction for its basic and non-commissioned officer training cycles, which has laid the ground work for reform in the Estonian training system for years to come.

USG assistance funds also supported communications systems for Estonia's Infantry Brigade, while a tactical data system for the Air Force helped ensure air security by improving its ability to manage Estonian airspace. Secure Global Positioning Systems for Naval Forces assets assisted in improving the capabilities of mine/countermine vessels, which operate along national shores, as well as in NATO-led missions. USG grants also helped the military education system as they provided the Joint Conflict and Tactical Simulation software for Estonia's newly created Simulation Center. The Center became a regional asset and allows for the training of Estonian, as well as Baltic, military and defense-related entities in U.S. and NATO-standard tactics and techniques.


The result of USG security assistance has been the deployment of highly trained, proficient, and competent units to support the GWOT in Iraq and Afghanistan. Estonian soldiers fight along with U.S. and NATO-led forces across a broad-spectrum, from infantry support stationed with a U.S. battalion providing security in Baghdad, to staff officers in support of multinational headquarters. Estonia has expanded its involvement to include units with specialized capabilities, such as its human intelligence teams supporting ISAF in Afghanistan and peace keeping units in Bosnia and Kosovo.

FY 2006 Funds Budgeted for U.S. Government Assistance to Estonia [PDF format]