The NATO summit held in Warsaw, Poland, officially approved the deployment of four multinational battalions to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to help deter any potential Russian threat to the region.
According to the alliance’s plan, the United Kingdom is to send security enforcement to Estonia, the United States to Poland, Germany to Lithuania and Canada to Latvia. NATO’s four multinational combat battalions are intended to reassurance the region against the threat of Russian encroachment.
Even though the United Kingdom decided in a referendum to leave the European Union, the country’s outgoing prime minister, David Cameron, said the UK would remain at the heart of NATO. In an attempt to counter fears that Brexit will diminish the UK’s standing on the world stage, Cameron said the country would continue to play an “essential” role in the alliance.
The UK will send 500 troops to Estonia to provide reassurance and to react immediately to any crisis or incident. The UK is also to take over the leadership of the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task (VJTF) from 2017, with 3,000 troops in the UK and Germany on standby to move with as little as five days’ notice. “These deployments show Britain taking a leading role in NATO, protecting the security of our Baltic allies. We can do this because we are increasing defence spending every year for the rest of the decade,” the UK’s defence secretary Michael Fallon said in a statement.
Up to 200 Danish soldiers will also join a British-led coalition in Estonia.
“This is a breakthrough that unambiguously demonstrates NATO’s solidarity and the fact that Estonia is better protected today than ever before,” Estonian prime minister Taavi Rõivas said after the meeting of the North Atlantic Council. “Approximately 1,000 troops from different NATO member states being stationed in Estonia will become a new normality. This is a direct confirmation of the alliance’s defence and deterrence posture – a signal that an attack on one is an attack on all and it’s not worth picking a fight with us.”
The Wall Street Journal reported in June that the four battalions were to be a force of about 4,000 troops. The US deputy secretary of defence, Robert Work, said at the time that the buildup was a response to more Russian activity around the Baltics – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – where tensions have been rising.
The defence ministers of NATO countries approved the deployment in February.
Cover image: Two Rifles training and exchanging tactics with US troops and the 2nd Mountain Brigade of the Romanian forces (courtesy of British Army)