The soldiers of the United Kingdom, France, and Denmark raised the national flags during the line-up at Tapa army base today, to mark the start of the service of the NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence battalion battle group in Estonia.
The Estonian Minister of Defence Mr. Margus Tsahkna said in his speech during at the ceremony that Allies’ battle group arrival is the clear assurance that Estonia does not has to stand against the threats alone any more.
“Today’s ceremony symbolises NATO’s resolve and unity. Our Allies’ troops standing here is a powerful signal, that when we say “All for one, one for all”, we mean that. The free world is united, and the values and principles we’re here to defend, are eternal. We know we can count on allies and allies know that they can always count on us. By standing together, we’re strong,” said Tsahkna.
After the ceremony, the Estonian Minister of Defence Mr. Margus Tsahkna, Secretary of State for Defence of the UK Sir Michael Fallon, Minister of Defence of Denmark Claus Hjort Frederiksen, and the Ambassador of France to Estonia Mrs. Claudia Delmas-Scherer, signed a declaration about the establishment of an enhanced Forward Presence in Estonia. By the declaration, the NATO battalion battle group will operate in concert with the Estonian Defence Forces as a defensive, but combat capable force.
About 1,200 troops from the UK, France, Denmark, and Estonia participated in the flag-raising ceremony. Also present were the President of Estonia Mrs. Kersti Kaljulaid, the chairman of Riigikogu Mr. Eiki Nestor, the Prime Minister Mr. Jüri Ratas, the Chief of Defence Gen. Riho Terras, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe Gen. James Everard, and the Commander of the Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum Gen. Salvatore Farina.
At the Warsaw Summit in July 2016, 28 leaders of NATO Member Nations decided to establish an enhanced Forward Presence in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland due to changed security situation. NATO’s battalion battle group in Estonia strengthens the deterrence and collective defence, and also reinforces Estonian self-defence capability.
1200-strong NATO’s battalion battle group is a part of the 1st Estonian Infantry Brigade, stationed in Tapa. The framework nation UK is contributing more than 800 troops, armed with the Challenger 2 tanks, infantry fighting vehicles Warrior, and self-propelled howitzers AS90. France is contributing 300 troops armed with the Leclerc tanks, infantry fighting vehicles VBCI, and armoured vehicles VAB. The French unit will serve in Tapa for eight months, after that it’ll be rotated by the Danish unit.