The first batch of British soldiers has arrived in Estonia to serve as part of the NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence on the borders of Russia and part of “wider efforts to defend the alliance” from the perceived threat from Moscow.
Some 130 soldiers from 5 Rifles RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire landed at the Amari airbase near Tallinn on Friday night where they were welcomed by the UK’s Ambassador Bubbear Theresa and the 1st Infantry Brigade commander of Estonian forces Colonel Veiko-Vello Palm.
They will now link-up with some 80 British servicemen who were sent in advance to prepare the facilities for the arrival of the soldiers.
In the coming weeks, additional British troops will be dispatched. A French contingent is also due, accompanied by tanks, reconnaissance drones and infantry fighting vehicles to form a 1,200-strong detachment.
The NATO battle group in Estonia will be stationed at Tapa. The UK will contribute the bulk of multinational force in Estonia, sending in a total of 800 soldiers. France will post 300 soldiers to Estonia — to be replaced by the Danes in 2018. All troops will act in conjunction with Estonia’s 1st Infantry Brigade.
NATO’s forces in Estonia are just one of four multinational battalion-size battle groups which the alliance started positioning earlier this year in Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland on a rotational basis. The “defensive” measures were agreed during the NATO-Warsaw summit in July.
These units — led by the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and the United States, along with their military hardware — are NATO’s biggest deployment of troops along Russian borders since the end of the Cold War. The battalions are set to become fully operational by June.