The Estonian defence minister, Margus Tsahkna, and the US ambassador in the country, James Melville, on 17 January signed a defence cooperation agreement between the two countries that is designed to regulate the legal status of members of the US armed forces, their family members and contractors in Estonia.
The agreement also simplifies their activities in Estonia and increases their well-being by providing certain agreement based benefits. The agreement will not limit Estonia’s exclusive right to grant permission for the entry of members of the US armed forces, military aircraft, and military vessels into Estonia, the government said in a statement.
According to Tsahkna, the agreement is part of the mutual cooperation between the two countries to defend the eastern border of NATO and ensure peace in the region.
Melville added that the agreement puts the mutual defence cooperation in a legal framework and helps further strengthen the cooperation between the US and Estonia.
The defence cooperation agreement complements the already existing agreement on the status of armed forces between NATO member states and replaces the agreement on the use of land plots and structures belonging to the Estonian Defence Forces, which was concluded with the United States in 2015, the government said.
Estonia has previously concluded bilateral armed forces status agreements with, for example, Kuwait and Germany.
Cover: An F-22 from the 95th Fighter Squadron, based at Tyndall Air Force, flying above the Ämari Air Base, Estonia, in 2015 (courtesy of USAF).