At the very moment when the British contingent in Estonia took off, information was lost Times mentions a possible departure of these forces and their return to the United Kingdom.
On 21 September, the relief took place at Tapa in Estonia between the Royal Welsh Battlegroup (spearhead of NATO Enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltic State) and the King’s Royal Hussars (KRH) equipped with two tank squadrons Challenger 2 and reinforced by an anti-tank company from the 1st Battalion, Scots Guards. This unit is equipped with the MRAP Mastiff and missiles Javelin throw.
The British contingent is reinforced by Danes with a squadron of tanks Leopard 2A7 and a French company from the 27th BIM.
According to the Times, the British Army can no longer provide such a presence. His withdrawal could take place in December, the date of the next replacement. London could decide to withdraw its troops and base them in Britain, ready to be deployed in the event of a crisis. The deterioration of British finances may also be an aggravating factor.
Such a decision would go completely against the recent announcements by the British that they wanted to expand their presence and increase their manpower assigned to Estonia to be able to deploy 2,000 men. But the MoD now says the project was good to have 2,000 troops to Estonia and not in Estonia and that it was a “temporary deployment”.
The Estonians reacted immediately. Here is their press release:
Commenting on the news today about UK troops in Estonia, Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said it is important to stress that the Allied presence in Estonia is constant. The United Kingdom and Estonia are in the process of developing a long-term solution and putting in place the details of the implementation of the Madrid Summit decisions. “At the last NATO summit, the Allies took a clear position – NATO’s eastern flank, including the defense of Estonia, will be strengthened. First of all, this means the allocation of an additional brigade from Great Britain to Estonia, the creation of a divisional-level structure based on Estonian and British brigades, and the renewal of NATO’s regional plans, which also include the plans to defend Estonia,” said Pevkur. According to the minister, Estonia’s goal is to increase the allies’ footprint in Estonia. “Today, the main British-led contingent in Tapa will remain. It includes approximately 900 men and heavy equipment. There are also French and Danish units, the latter having arrived this month with a new unit and Leopard tanks. At Ämari Air Base will Baltic Air Policing mission to continue, and the rotation there was recently taken over by the Germans. So we can already say that there has never been as much Allied firepower in Estonia as there is now,” Minister Pevkur said. “Of course, our interest understandably in increasing the allies’ footprint even faster, which is why, in addition to the larger NATO plans, we are also conducting bilateral talks with various allies so that the Estonian people can rest assured, knowing that Estonia is defended,” added Pevkur.”
“Constant NATO presence,” reassures the Estonian defense minister, who also highlights the search for a long-term Anglo-Estonian solution with a British brigade (he does not say where it will be based) and a level division force with national and allied elements. The Estonian minister mentions the figure of 900 British soldiers on Estonian soil “to reassure the Estonian population”.