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British troops have arrived in Estonia as part of one of the biggest deployments to Eastern Europe in decades.

120 Soldiers from the 5th Battalion The Rifles Battlegroup (5 RIFLES), including members of an Armoured Engineer Squadron, Military Police Detachment, Artillery Group and Port Task Group, arrived at Amari airbase last night.

They were welcomed by Estonia’s Defence Minister Margus Tsahkna, having flown from RAF Brize Norton by Voyager aircraft.

According to the government, the 120 soldiers are fundamental to setting up a UK headquarters in the country before the rest of the UK deployment arrives next month, increasing the total number of troops in Estonia to around 800. The government said in a statement:

“The UK is taking a leading role in NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence, alongside several other contributing nations.

The deployments are designed to assure NATO allies of the mutual commitment to collective European security. “

Working alongside the UK forces this year will be French personnel, and from next year, Danish partners. All are there at the request of the Estonian Government. The Battlegroup will provide a ‘combat capable force’ to deter any form of hostile activity against the alliance.

The UK-led Estonia Battlegroup is one of four NATO multinational deployments to the eastern part of the Alliance. Other nations are deploying to Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, the last of which will include 150 UK personnel, on a persistent, rotational basis. 

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:

“In the face of an increasingly assertive Russia, NATO is stepping up its commitment to collective defence. British troops will play a leading role in Estonia and support our US allies in Poland, as part of wider efforts to defend NATO.

Our rising defence budget means we can support those deployments in the long-term and strengthen our commitment to European security.”

Commanding Officer of 5 Rifles Lieutenant Colonel Mark Wilson added:

“The UK and Estonia have a long and proud history of serving together, including in Afghanistan, so it is an honour to lead 5 RIFLES on this deployment as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence.

My soldiers are looking forward to again be working, training and exercising alongside their Estonian counterparts.”

This week, around 300 UK vehicles have also arrived Estonia, including Warrior infantry fighting vehicles, Challenger 2 tanks and AS90 self-propelled artillery pieces. French armoured vehicles, including tanks, are also due to arrive in Estonia via train after being loaded yesterday.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Although I understand the need to deploy these forces to reassure our NATO allies, it is a desperate shame they are even needed. Can we get a dialogue going with Russia to reassure them NATO is not trying to surround them.
    Putin only respects military strength and sending a small force is likely to just encourage him to test NATOs resolve further.
    The Baltic states need to massively increase their own defence expenditure, if they each had armed forces of circa 120,000 personnel mostly in army and air force, a reserve of equal size then they could deter Russia themselves. It would take a gigantic attack to overwhelm them.
    By allowing them to join NATO before they had strong forces and a viable defence plan we have allowed the Baltic states to demand NATO protection at our expense, it is our armed forces risking their lives by deploying to the Baltics to face the Russian bear.
    Baltic states need to do more themselves, they should be spending 10-15% of their GDP on defence, after all they are on the frontline and in danger of Russian aggression and hybrid warfare.

    • They should also train their unicorns to poo diamonds!
      Christ, Walter Mitty was more grounded than this.

      The 3 Baltic states have a combined economy smaller than Scotland.
      They are doing what they can with what they have.

      They should consider merging units and procurement projects, but they are building their capabilities from zero.

  2. Going to take what I suspect will be a controversial view;

    I listen to most of Putin’s public statements live when I can and most of the important ones can be found on You Tube.

    I always try to see the other side to counter our own unconscious bias so let’s play it from the other side.

    Look at NATO map at the end of the cold war and look at it now. From the Russian perspective, why did and why does it continue to expand east if the cold war is over?

    Who pulled out of the ABM treaty and what did Russia say about it at the time?

    To understand Ukraine a little history is necessary. There was no way Russia was going to let it’s access to the Black Sea port go. Also, we conveniently forget how the US was caught planning a coup and caring not a jot about either Russia or the EU.

    The missile shield in Eastern Europe was said to protect from Iranian nuclear missiles. Well, there is a deal in place with Iran for nuclear weapons but the missile shield is still in place.

    People complain about Russia in Allepo, but that country is a cluster **** with British, Saudi, Iranian, French, US, Turkish and others all with blooded hands well before the time when Russia really stepped in.

    Need I mention Iraq and Libya…

    Also we should understand that Russia is largely populated in a swathe down the west with huge space in the middle. Now look at the map and see how hemmed in that western swathe of Russia is becoming from the seas.

    Now in case anyone wants to sound off about me being a Russian apologist, don’t because I’m not. I don’t wear rose coloured specs and I know what propaganda is. I study history, my wife is Polish (Katyn…), I know all about Russian ‘brotherhood’ and what ‘freedom from capitalist oppression’ looks like so don’t try that.

    However, I really don’t think Putin wants all this shit but he’s not going to lie down and watch his country’s strategic interests (see my points above) be very materially eroded.

    I agree, Russia probably does not have the capacity for a like for like war with the west, so he’s playing Sun Tzu with his nuclear advantage and Armata tanks etc to keep an alternative strategic balance.

    No one can honestly say that UK / US foreign policy has been error free over the last 15 years, we should allow Putin the same latitude and find ways to deescalate, find common ground and stop trying to ‘beat’ Russia.

    • Stopped reading after “continue to expand east”….

      top tip komrade: Nato hasn’t expanded eastward for 13 years.
      Strange that Ivan is only getting upset about this now!

      • Joe; In 2011, NATO officially recognized four aspiring members: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia, and Montenegro. Ukraine holding referendum on membership.

        Up for a constructive debate but shutting it down and calling me Komrade, very uncool

        • Komrade, check a map….. and not an old soviet one.
          Of the nations you listed, only Montenegro are joining.
          Montenegro is WEST of NATO’s eastern border!

          As I said, the expansion east was 13 years ago & was at the behest of the countries involved (consent must be an odd concept for a soviet).

  3. From the colour scheme in the picture it looks as if they’re disembarking from one of our RFA Point-class RoRo ships. Is that correct? I’m not making any particular point (no pun intended!), just curious and hadn’t noticed pics of the RoRo-s in use before so always interesting to see our assets being used. (I was going to say “nice” to see our assets being used but given this is military equipment and no one in their right mind should seek conflict or even the threat of it that would probably have been the wrong word to use.)

  4. I think sending a battle group is a fair and proportionate deployment.. After all we are not going there to seek conflict. Just helps to give our Nato allies over there some reassurance.

    I was actually surprised with the size of the baltic armed forces when put together, after all they are small country’s.

    • One of the two authors of that paper I posted the URL of about an SDF was “on loan service to Estonia as the British staff member at the newly created Baltic Defence College, the internationally supported staff college for the Armed Forces of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania” and “witnessed at first hand the development of Baltic States’ armed forces following their renewed independence”. One of the reasons I set a store on the paper.

      As for the UK presence, build an HQ, then put in a core of troops, and it’s a lot easier to multiply it several times in a hurry. So though it’s a token force, it’s the thin end of the wedge, if neccessary. Kind of like a bridgehead I guess.

      I do agree with Ian though, amd Mr Bell’s first paragraph, more dialogue. And a show of force – or of intention but keeping it small, shouldn’t do any harm to that.

      Putin’s a bear, poke him and he roars. Well what a surprise.

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