Sa, 4.02.2023

UK mulling doubling troop presence in Estonia

UK mulling doubling troop presence in Estonia
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Photo: Dmitri Kotjuh / Järva Teataja

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday that the country is considering stationing another 900 troops and new weapons in Estonia.

This would mean the UK doubling the number of troops it has in Estonia. The Brits are currently in charge of a NATO battle group in Estonia made up of 830 British and over 300 French soldiers. The UK is also mulling stationing more fighter jets, warships and military specialists in Eastern Europe.

“Diplomatic and security efforts of the last six months are beginning to bear fruit,” Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet (Reform) told Postimees. “Our NATO allies realize the threat level in our region and that deterrence needs to be ramped up.” Laanet gave the example of Denmark’s recent decision to station a frigate with 160 troops and four F-16 fighters in Estonia.

“Or let us take our French allies who also stand ready to amplify our deterrence. The latest message comes from our British allies who are saying they would like to ramp up Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) in Tapa,” Laanet said.

The Joe Biden administration has said it is considering stationing new U.S. troops in Eastern Europe. What are recent developments?

“We have F-16 fighters stationed at Ämari today. They will stay here for some time and send a serious message to Russia in terms of deterrence. As concerns U.S. troops in the region, the topic is being discussed. We hope we will get the chance to talk to U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin before or after the NATO defense ministers meeting. The meeting is scheduled as between Baltic and UK defense ministers,” Laanet revealed, adding that the format has not been laid down in more detail.

The British premiere has said that the Russian president opting for bloodshed and destruction in Ukraine would be a disaster for Europe. “Ukraine must be free to choose its own future,” he said.

Johnson said on Friday that he is set to discuss the Ukraine issue with President Putin in the coming days. He also plans to visit the region this week.

Russia-West relations are at their lowest since the end of the Cold War as Russia has stationed tens of thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border.

The British Parliament is expected to declare tougher sanctions against Russia on Monday.