British foreign secretary in Estonia to honor alliance dating back to 1918
Philip Hammond, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, will arrive for a working visit to Estonia on Monday, a day ahead of the Estonian Independence Day.
Britain and Estonia have in recent years become formidable allies. Estonian troops served under British command in Afghanistan and the Royal Air Force has repeatedly provided jets for the Baltic Air Policing mission in the absence of local air defence capability. Four RAF Typhoons will again deploy for four months from May and will be based at Ämari Air Base, Estonia.
The cooperation also extends to information technology. The two countries signed an agreement in 2013 to work together on developing digital public services. The Estonian-founded money transfer firm Transferwise is incorporated in London and has recently become a massive success story, attracting investment from the British billionaire Richard Branson, among others. British Ambassador in Tallinn Chris Holtby is also a frequent visitor at the local startup events in Estonia.
The fact that British foreign secretary is visiting Estonia ahead of the Independence Day is symbolic. On December 12 in 1918, at the height of the Estonian War of Independence, when the Soviet army was just 34 km from Tallinn and Estonia was on the verge of capitulation, a British fleet arrived in Tallinn bringing guns, food, and fuel. It was in those days that the modern Estonia-UK alliance was born.
Hammond will meet with his Estonian counterpart Keit Pentus-Rosimannus and will discuss Estonian-British relations, including digital and cyber cooperation. The foreign ministers will also discuss foreign policy issues – the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, the fight against ISIL and the future of the European Union.
As appropriate in honoring the old military alliance, Hammond will also meet with Lt. Gen. Riho Terras, the Commander of the Estonian Defense Forces, and lay a wreath at the foot of the War of Independence victory monument.