Baltic state resists permanent NATO deployment
A British military brigade assigned to secure NATO’s eastern border will not be staying in Estonia on a permanent basis, a Defense Ministry official in Tallinn has said.
The comments from Madis Roll, who heads the NATO and EU Department at the Estonian Defense Ministry, were published on Wednesday by the broadcaster ERR, after an announcement by German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius earlier this week that Berlin would be deploying 4,000 of its soldiers to another Baltic nation, Lithuania.
“Germany is ready to permanently station a robust brigade in Lithuania,” Pistorius said during a visit to the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, which will host a NATO summit next month. Berlin expects its brigade to be ready for deployment in 2025, but Lithuania would have to build facilities to accommodate the Bundeswher troops first.
Roll noted that Estonia, which is in discussions with the UK on more military assistance, differs from Lithuania in its views on NATO deployments.
“Lithuania’s request [to Germany] has clearly had a political dimension. They are saying that there should be deterrence through presence. Our approach has always been to achieve deterrence through actual military capability,” he stressed.
The stance of the Estonian Defense Ministry is that NATO forces do not need to be permanently stationed in the country, but must be able to quickly come to Tallinn’s aid in case of a crisis, the official explained.
The head of a UK-led brigade put together as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup, Brigadier General Giles Harris, and some other British personnel, have already arrived in Estonia, Roll said. But the sides are still discussing the scale of the British presence and which NATO equipment should be positioned there, he added.
Following the launch of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, NATO decided to reinforce its existing battle groups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, and establish four more multinational formations in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.
Moscow, which has long decried the eastward expansion of the US-led military alliance, has described the conflict in Ukraine as a “proxy” conflict waged by NATO against it.
According to the Russian authorities, weapons, funds and intelligence provided to Kiev by the US and its European allies are only prolonging the fighting, while increasing the risk of a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO.