NATO holds war games on Russia’s border
British, French, and Danish troops who have recently arrived to serve in NATO Battlegroup Estonia began joint drills with Estonian forces this weekend.
The ongoing Bold Dragon war games, involving foreign soldiers and members of Estonia’s 1st Infantry Brigade, are being held at the country's central military training area.
Their aim is to provide the newly-arrived Western European servicemen with their first opportunity to get acquainted with the Estonian terrain and improve cooperation with their local counterparts.
On Saturday and Sunday, the participants of the drill practiced both assault and defensive maneuvers, according to a statement by the 1st Infantry Brigade. Some 2,000 Estonian troops are taking part in the war games, which will culminate in a battalion-level tactical exercise on Wednesday and Thursday, it added.
The Bold Dragon drills also feature aviation, including Belgian F-16s, British Eurofighter jets and Wildcat helicopters as well as Estonian aircraft.
“In the days to come, each subunit of the battlegroup – from the UK, Denmark as well as France – will show what they are capable of, with the goal of integrating into the 1st Infantry Battalion as an efficient military unit,” Lieutenant Colonel Ru Streatfeild, commander of NATO Battlegroup Estonia, said.
The drills are taking place amid the ongoing Russian military offensive in Ukraine. Estonia, which joined NATO in 2004 together with Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania, shares a 300-km (over 186 miles) border with Russia.
Since the start of the conflict, NATO has significantly boosted its contingent in Eastern Europe, with the number of the bloc’s troops in the region – stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea – now reaching some 40,000.
Russia attacked its neighbor in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.