Outgoing NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup commander, Briton Colonel Paul Clayton, says the group, now over four years old, is thoroughly integrated with the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) 1st Brigade, maintaining the same level of readiness, and to all intents and purposes of the same status as any sub-unit of a British Army brigade would be.
Appearing on ETV current affairs show "Välisilm" Monday evening, Col. Clayton said that: "We work very closely with the other eFP elements here in the region, but also with NATO headquarters. There's a new NATO HQ being developed in Riga, called Multinational Division North, and their responsibility is for the region, and we work very closely with them. I've also seen very close cooperation with the Estonian defense force, and the Latvian defense force as well, in discussing the defense of the region."
Based at Tapa, about an hour east of Tallinn, NATO's eFP is British-led with Danish and French, and in the past Belgian, contingents within its makeup. While it is organizationally a part of the EDF, as a NATO-commanded, multi-national force, this makes the chain of command somewhat complicated, but in a worst-case scenario the decision is Estonia's Ministry of Defense to make, he said.
"If we got to a conventional threat which was absolutely certified as a threat to Estonian security, that's when the [Estonian] Ministry of Defense would take over, and we would then get involved in-line with NATO protocols," Col. Clayton said.
"The main message of our deterrence is we're here to integrate and to be firmly part of the defense of Estonia, if required."
"As soon as a decision would be made, then the NATO battlegroup here would be absolutely fighting alongside 1st EDF brigade in the defense of Estonia."
"We sit firmly under the ministry of defense in line with the EDF and in line with communications we get from our own capitals in London, Paris and Copenhagen, and also the NATO command structure. So it's quite a complicated situation, but to begin with, we would do exactly the same thing and follow exactly the same routine that the EDF would be."
The same eFP model is played out in Latvia (Canadian-led), Lithuania (German-led) and Poland (U.S.-led).
As to what he has seen of the EDF during his time here, Col. Clayton said: "I've been really encouraged by the level of readiness and the ability to mobilize in such short order in the snap exercises I've seen, they've been really good. As a professional soldier I've seen the ability to get your soldiers, with their equipment, within a very short time frame to where they need to be, as being a real strength."
Changes and development during that time mostly focus around integration, standardization and also training on the part of the eFP, including that provided for Estonia's volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit).
"What I've been seeing is first of all an increase in integration of us as the eFP into the EDF 1st Brigade. That has improved and become a bit more standardized now, as you'd expect after four years, and I would look at our U.K., French and Danish battlegroup within 1st EDF brigade as I would at any unit within a U.K. brigade, so that integration has been very impressive."
"The development of the interaction between ourselves and the defense league has been impressive, and we now have a relationship with all of the districts, and so we provide training with them, hand-in-hand and partnering, which has increased their capability as well."
The full "Välisilm" interview in English, which also covered Ukraine, Russia's mass Exercise Zapad, and the effects of the pandemic, is available by clicking on the link on the cover image.
Editor: Andrew Whyte