Sa, 28.01.2023

SOCEUR commander: Estonians’ Africa mission a success story

Evelyn Kaldoja
, välisuudiste toimetuse juhataja
SOCEUR commander: Estonians’ Africa mission a success story
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Maj. Gen. David H. Tabor, Commander Commanding General, Special Operations Command-Europe.
Maj. Gen. David H. Tabor, Commander Commanding General, Special Operations Command-Europe. Photo: af.mil

The U.S. Special Forces forward operations base in Estonia also serves Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland and Sweden, Maj. Gen. David H. Tabor, Commander Commanding General, Special Operations Command-Europe, says in an interview.

Why did you choose Estonia as the location for the region’s forward operations base?

We are the most effective when we work as a team, and the ability to operate with allies and partners is key. That our special forces have a rotating forward presence and headquarters in Estonia is a clear example of this.

It serves as tangible confirmation of the long-time and close cooperation we have with our Estonian allies and in the Baltic region in general. We have nurtured those ties based on our common values and by committing to joint defense in the region, and I hope this relationship will be developed further in time.

What do you seek to achieve by having the headquarters here?

It allows our special forces in Europe to better develop planning with Estonian Defense Forces and is based on trust, close friendships and cooperation already achieved.

It is also a sign of our continued commitment to maintaining peace and stability in Europe through preparedness and troops stationed here who are trained, equipped and ready to face various challenges.

What are your expectations for Estonia, especially as hosts?

We expect the Estonian Special Forces to continue to be the brilliant allies, partners and friends they have always been, ready to learn – and teach; ready to lead – regionally and internationally; and ready to stand with us in the defense of our common liberty and values of freedom.

What other countries does the headquarters cover?

NATO realized long ago that we are stronger together. We have been training, working and dispatching troops in cooperation with allies and partners in the region for long years.

The rotating presence of U.S. Special Forces in Estonia enables us to continue establishing ties through promoting development of joint training in the region made up of Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland and Sweden.

Is having troops stationed near irrefutably hostile Russia a vulnerability or an advantage?

No one likes a bully and bullies don’t really like themselves, which is why they pick on those they consider weak. But bullies leave alone groups of friends joined by common values.

Neither the U.S. nor, I believe, Estonia can be intimidated by a malicious force hiding behind crooked interpretation of international norms.

How important is conscription in the long run?

Every country takes care of its military needs. What works well in one place might not in another. The Estonian Defense Forces is well-trained, capable and plays an important part in the country’s resilience. We regularly train with regular Estonian forces and are proud to be their allies.

Estonian Special Forces’ main foreign mission is in Mali, alongside their French colleagues. Are you saddened by the fact they are not serving with the U.S. instead?

It is not about mutual cooperation between USA and Estonia. The Estonian Special Forces’ African mission is a success story. The fact that Estonian Special Forces can go anywhere in the world and undertake whichever mission to support our NATO allies clearly shows the incredible capabilities of Estonian armed forces.

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