British troops arrive in Estonia to deter Russian aggression
Telegraph – British troops have arrived in Estonia as part of a major Nato mission in the Baltic states to deter Russian aggression.
Around 120 soldiers from the 5th Battalion The Rifles landed at the Amari airbase on Friday, 25 miles south-west of the capital Tallinn.
They were welcomed by Estonia’s defence minister Margus Tsahkna on their arrival from RAF Brize Norton.
Eight hundred British troops are due to be stationed in the country as part of one of the biggest deployments to Eastern Europe in decades.
The first batch will set up a UK headquarters in the country before the rest arrive next month.
They will work alongside French and Danish forces to “provide a proportionate, defensive, and combat capable force to defend our Nato ally and deter any form of hostile activity against the Alliance”, the Ministry of Defence said.
Britain is taking a leading role in the Estonia Battlegroup, while other nations are deploying troops to Latvia, Lithuania and Poland as part of Nato’s Enhanced Forward Presence battalion.
Around 300 UK vehicles have also left the UK this week by ferry headed for Estonia, including Challenger 2 tanks, Warrior infantry fighting vehicles, and AS90 self-propelled artillery pieces.
Britain and Estonia have a long history of defence co-operation.
In November 1918 a Royal Navy squadron was deployed to the region to support the independence of the Baltic states.
Sir Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, said: “In the face of an increasingly assertive Russia, Nato is stepping up its commitment to collective defence.
“British troops will play a leading role in Estonia and support our US allies in Poland, as part of wider efforts to defend Nato.
“Our rising defence budget means we can support those deployments in the long-term and strengthen our commitment to European security.”
Lieutenant Colonel Mark Wilson, Commanding Officer of 5th Battalion The Rifles, said: “The UK and Estonia have a long and proud history of serving together, including in Afghanistan, so it is an honour to lead 5 RIFLES on this deployment as part of Nato’s enhanced Forward Presence.
“My soldiers are looking forward to again be working, training and exercising alongside their Estonian counterparts.”
The deployment came as Donald Trump reaffirmed the United States’ “strong support” for Nato in a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
However, the US president also reiterated his stance that Nato allies need to “pay their fair share” for the cost of defence. Mr Trump said many countries owe “vast sums of money” but he declined to identify Germany as one of the nations.
Prior to his inauguration, Mr Trump declared Nato “obsolete” but has since modified his stance, telling European leaders, including Prime Minister Theresa May, the alliance remains of strategic importance.