The United Kingdom will deploy about 850 soldiers to Estonia, in response to the Russian tensions with Ukraine and the Baltic states; the soldiers will complement the 1,200-strong British-led NATO battle group already stationed in the country.
“Our plan is for the first soldiers to arrive this month – in February,” Ross Allen, the British ambassador in Estonia, told the Estonian Public Broadcasting’s evening news programme on 4 February.
Allen said a British regiment, currently stationed in Germany, would be moved to Estonia. “They’re getting ready now. And that’s about 850 soldiers, like a combat group that we already have in Estonia,” he noted.
Staying at least until the spring
Martin Herem, the chief of the Estonian Defence Forces, said the additional British troops would be deployed to Tapa, a town about an hour’s drive from the Estonian capital, Tallinn, where the rest of the NATO battle group is based.
The British ambassador said the reinforced battle group would remain in Estonia for the military exercise Siil (Hedgehog). The Estonian Defence Forces will conduct a mass exercise called Siil from mid-May until the beginning of June. Siil 2022 is one of the largest military exercises held in Estonia after the Soviet occupation and it will test the military’s combat readiness and reaction capability within an international framework.
The ambassador didn’t, however, rule out that the additional British troops would stay longer. “It is not known. It depends. We will assess with our Estonian partner, and it will depend on how serious the security situation is in our region in the future,” Allen said.
British troops stationed in Estonia since 2017
The UK has deployed its troops to Estonia since April 2017 as part of a NATO’s multinational battlegroup, currently numbering about 1,200 soldiers. About 850 British personnel rotate on a continuous basis alongside Danish, French and host nation Estonian forces.
Estonia and the UK have a long history of cooperating in defence matters. British fleet played a crucial role during the Estonian War of Independence in 1918, bringing guns, food and fuel to Estonia that was on the verge of capitulation against fighting the Bolshevik-led Russia.
In the new millennium, Estonian soldiers served alongside the British in Iraq and Afghanistan.