Commander of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Martin Herem called the concentration of Russian forces on its western border in response to a NATO exercise an excuse as Russia has known the time and scope of the exercise for some time.
"They are officially saying it is a response to the exercise put on by the U.S. and its allies," Herem told ETV's daily affairs show "Ringvaade" about the deployment of Russian troops to the country's western border. "The numbers and maneuvers of both the Spring Storm (Kevadtorm) and Defender Europe exercises were known to Russia for at least a year so they are no surprise to them."
On Tuesday, ERR News wrote that the Russian Federation is deploying troops on its western borders in order to engage in what the Kremlin calls training exercises prompted by the threat of NATO, that country's defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, said.
Some 30,000 troops will be moved from the U.S to Europe and between European countries during the U.S Army-led NATO exercise. Defender Europe takes place in 16 different countries, kicked off on May 5 in Estonia when some 1,000 British troops will parachute on Koigi Airfield.
"The exercise trains defending due to Russia, their troops have been in Crimea and Ukraine for years now," Herem said, adding that NATO will not bring any additional forces in response to Russia.
He said Russia's deployment of troops to its western border should not cause too much worry. "We should be a little worried about Russia all the time. But that I would be more worried than usual, no," Herem said.
The NATO exercise will stay in Estonia for a week and then move on to the Balkans. The EDF's Spring Storm exercise will kick off right after, Herem confirmed.
Spring Storm will begin on May 17 on EDF's central training area and will last until June 5. Herem said this year's domestic army exercise will be more complicated than ever. For example, Apache attack helicopters will be used for the first time. "The Apache destroys a tank, for example. Such shooting has never been done in Estonia before. Some 7,000 people from Estonia will participate and many from other countries as well," Herem said.
"It is the final evaluation of units prepared during their military conscription. The other side is cooperation with allies and different techniques. The main topic is increasing the level of training: We will have more complicated exercises than ever," Herem continued.
The commander said that the EDF has adapted to the coronavirus by now. Allied participants are mostly vaccinated or recovered and rapid testing is used for Estonian troops. They have also not had much contact with the civil world for months.
Herem said some 1,000 EDF troops have had the coronavirus, most of them with light symptoms. "There were 204 positive cases as of [Tuesday] morning," he added, admitting that the virus has caused some tension and conspiracies.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste