Today, Minister of Defence Magus Tsahkna visited the NATO battalion battle group’s command element at the Headquarters of the Defence Forces and received a thorough overview from the commander of the contingent, Colonel Giles Harris, regarding the arrival of Allied forces to Estonia over the next six weeks.
“A long and steady brotherhood in arms binds Estonia to the United Kingdom. The arrival of a British Naval squadron on a raid on Tallinn resulted in a shift in the balance of power in the Baltic Sea in the favour of Estonia during the War of Independence,” said the Minister of Defence. “The deployment to Estonia of a NATO battalion battle group under the command of the United Kingdom balances the security situation and sends a clear message regarding NATO’s decisiveness and unity.”
According to Tsahkna, the deployment by NATO of battalion battle groups into its border countries ensures peace and stability on the territory of all member countries. “The deployment of international battle groups is a part of the Alliance’s broader efforts to strengthen NATO’s position of deterrence and defence and powerfully demonstrates the strength of the Alliance,” said the Minister of Defence.
Last June, at the Warsaw Summit, the leaders of NATO’s 28 member countries decided, as a result of the changed security situation, to deploy NATO battalion battle groups to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
The United Kingdom will serve as the lead country for the NATO battle group to be stationed in Estonia, with France and Denmark assuming the role of contributing countries.
NATO’s international battle group will arrive in Estonia in March-April 2017, and will participate in the training exercise Spring Storm 2017, taking place in May.
The battle group is comprised of nearly 1200 Allied soldiers. The United Kingdom has announced that its contribution to the battle group will be an 800 member armoured unit, equipped with the Warrior infantry fighting vehicle, Challenger 2 tanks, and tactical drones. France has announced that its contribution to the battle group will be a 300 member unit, equipped with Leclerc tanks and armoured vehicles.
We are connected to the Brits, the Danes, and the French by long-term defence related ties and a brotherhood in arms from joint participation in international military operations.
During the NATO operation in Helmand Province, in southern Afghanistan, the Estonian infantry company was part of the United Kingdom’s brigade. Estonia is bound to the United Kingdom by long-term defence related cooperation. During the 1990s, instructors from the UK helped build up the Defence Forces training system.
In 2014, Estonia participated together with France in a stabilisation operation in the Central African Republic, being one of the first countries to contribute to the operation. Today, Estonia is participating in two priority operations for France – Mali and Lebanon. Estonian servicemen have studied at French armed forces educational institutions.
Estonian and Danish instructors are training Iraqi security forces together. Denmark has supported the development and training of Estonia’s infantry brigade for many years. During the 1990s, and at the beginning of the 2000s, Estonian servicemen participated in the peacekeeping operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of the Danish contingent.