American defense secretary Ashton Carter will take part in the Estonian Victory Day celebrations on Tuesday, June 23.
Carter's visit follows an official trip by President Barack Obama just 9 months ago. Jeb Bush, an early Republican front-runner for president, visited last week.
Since the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the three Baltic states have all asked further security guarantees, as NATO member states.
In late April 2014, the US stationed 150 soldiers from the US Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team to Estonia. Originally destined for bilateral infantry exercises, the growing concerns about the Russian Federation’s behavior brought a decision to rotate the US troops in Estonia for as long as necessary, effectively making the permanent presence of American forces on the Estonian soil a reality.
Furthermore, the New York Times reported last week that the US could store heavy weapons, such as battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles for up to 5,000 troops in a number of Eastern European nations and in the Baltics, although Estonia's part in the plan is not believed to be huge, with equipment for a company, or 150 soldiers, pre-positioned in the country.
Carter will meet with his Estonian counterpart Sven Mikser, as well as with defense ministers from Latvia and Lithuania, the US Department of Defense said. The US defense secretary will likely offer details on plans to pre-position heavy military equipment in Europe, The Guardian reported on Sunday. Carter will also meet President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas and commemorate Estonian Victory Day.
While in Tallinn, Carter will visit US sailors and marines aboard the USS San Antonio, which participated as the lead U.S. ship of the 43rd BALTOPS sea exercise, a recently concluded multinational exercise.
Carter is the 25th US Secretary of Defense. Outside his governmental work, he is author or co-author of 11 books and more than 100 articles on physics, technology, national security, and management.
Victory Day (Võidupüha in Estonian) is an Estonian public holiday, which has been celebrated on June 23 every year since 1934 until 1939 and after the restoration of Estonian independence from 1992.
The day recalls the decisive battle during the Estonian War of Independence in which the country’s military forces and their allies defeated the German forces who sought to re-assert Baltic-German control over the region. Nowadays, the Victory Day also marks the contributions of all Estonians in their fight to regain and retain their independence.
Editor: S. Tambur