The Estonian case suggests that being small in size is both a curse and a blessing when it comes to developing a national WGA. On the positive side, people working in different institutions in a small state inevitably know each other and interact more than their counterparts in larger countries. Inter-personal ties and the relatively small size of various state organisations contribute to flexible, ad hoc cooperation and the ability to take decisions and mobilise resources quickly, if need be.
On the other hand, a more explicit and elaborate development of a WGA would require additional resources and put an extra strain on institutions that are already operating under a rather heavy workload. Estonia’s response to the Ukraine crisis that broke out in 2013 serves as an example of a rather successful WGA-type approach, including a quick and comprehensive mobilisation of resources and the involvement of a wide range of actors, both domestic and external.
Estonia’s related activities have truly been broad-ranging, encompassing major efforts to enhance different aspects of national security and resilience, on the one hand, and support to Ukraine in a number of fields, including e-government, the fight against corruption, and supporting education and media organisations, on the other. National security concerns have been the main underlying motivator for these activities, with Ukraine being an obvious example of possible far-ranging implications of an external conflict for Estonia’s national security.
A comprehensive approach is particularly visible – and regarded as vital – in the area of national defence, where a broad concept of security has become increasingly important in recent years – again, partly due to the crisis in Ukraine. For a small state with a somewhat precarious geopolitical location, national security and defence are inevitably top priorities. As the nature of threats has become more wide-ranging and complex due to technological developments and a high level of global interconnectedness, involving a wide range of actors and issue areas in national security planning has become a necessity. Although focused on national security, this experience is also relevant for Estonia’s engagement in external crises and conflicts, irrespective of the presence of a clear national security interest.
To conclude, it is worth noting that Estonia will become, for the first time ever, a rotating member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) in the 2020–2021 period. Cybersecurity and conflict prevention will be among Estonia’s priorities in the UNSC, together with a broad emphasis on the importance of international law for peace and security. Again, for a small state with limited resources, the campaign for the UNSC seat was already a major effort that forced the country to strengthen the global dimension of its foreign policy. Participation in the UNSC can be expected to contribute significantly to the further development of a comprehensive approach to international security and external crises in Estonia.