The Ministry of Defence has signed off on draft Parliament decisions that call for 140 Estonian Defence Forces members to participate in 2015 in international military operations in NATO response forces in Afghanistan, Mali, Kosovo and the Middle East as well as in the EU’s Nordic Battle Group.
Pursuant to the International Military Cooperation Act, Parliament makes the decisions on use of the Defence Forces in international military operations. A majority vote in Parliament is required to pass the draft decisions, which are now in the stage of gathering endorsements.
“As members of NATO, the European Union and the UN, it is our duty also to contribute to their international operations,” said Minister of Defence Sven Mikser. “By doing so, Estonia makes its contribution to ensuring international security, but we will also ensure that we ourselves are defended, which is very important in the current tense security situation."
One of the largest missions for the Defence Forces next year will be participation in the NATO Response Force, NRF; to which one minesweeper, a crew of up to 40 active duty personnel and as many as five staff officers will be pledged. Estonia is participating in the NRF in the same numbers this year.
The NATO Response Force is a unit in a high state of readiness that is capable of carrying out military operations all over the world. NRF has a direct connection with Estonia, as ever since Russia’s aggression in Ukraine began, a NATO Mine Countermeasures Group within NRF is on permanent patrol on the Baltic Sea.
It is planned for up to 50 Defence Forces members to take part in the European Union’s Nordic Battle Group. The EU combat groups are military units with a 15-day response time that the EU can rapidly deploy in international hotspots. Estonian Defence Forces personnel are in permanent readiness in Estonia.
Up to 25 Defence Forces personnel are expected to take part in the new NATO mission in Afghanistan, Resolute Support, on condition that Afghanistan will sign the security agreements with the US and NATO necessary for the mission. The new mission is a training and consultation mission, not a combat operation.
The Ministry of Defence is also requesting Parliament to empower it to extend the mandate of 10 Defence Forces members on the EU training mission in Mali and to increase the participation in the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA. At the moment, two Estonian staff officers serve in MINUSMA; but the plan is to up that number to 10 Defence Forces personnel.
In addition, it is planned to extend the mandate of the three Defence Forces members on the NATO peacekeeping mission KFOR in Kosovo and the mandate of six Defence Forces personnel on the UN military observer mission UNTSO in the Middle East. The Ministry of Defence is seeking a mandate to send up to five Defence Forces members to the staff of a potential new NATO or EU military operation, if one is established.