In a ceremony at Tapa Army Base on Monday morning, incoming troops from the Viking Company of the Danish Defense took up their role as the supporting element of the enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) NATO Battlegroup Estonia, stationed at Tapa alongside the 1st Infantry Brigade of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF).
The Danish troops are replacing soldiers from the 5th Dragoon Regiment of the French Army, who have been serving in NATO Battlegroup Estonia since March 2021, according to a Ministry of Defense press release.
Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet (Reform) attended the ceremony in Tapa on Monday morning.
"Permanent allied presence is of essential importance to Estonian security," Laanet said after praising the outgoing French unit for fulfilling their tasks excellently. "I thank our great allies for their contribution to the defense of our region."
He noted that France is set to send more troops to Estonia in the very near future, a contribution that will increase the number of allied troops in Estonia to over 2,000, far more than Estonia has ever seen before.
"In addition to the troops, we also have top-tier military equipment in Estonia, including eight fighters at Ämari Air Base," the minister continued. "In cooperation with our allies, we are protected — this is something we should never forget or underestimate."
"I know that the Danish soldiers and officers are highly motivated and looking forward to training and serving here in Estonia with our British and Estonian comrades," Maj. Michael Krogsgaard, Denmark's senior national representative to the NATO mission in Estonia. "The Danish Defense has been part of the NATO battlegroup in Estonia since 2018. The previous contingent left in March 2021 and now we are back, reaffirming our commitment to the EDF, the deterrence of any adversaries and to the defense of Estonia."
Following consultations with the EDF, France has decided to extend the deployment of French troops to Estonia. Later this week, a subunit of more than 200 French Army troops will deploy to Tapa to further bolster the Estonian, British and Danish forces already stationed at Tapa.
"In solidarity with our NATO allies, France is particularly committed to our strategic partner Estonia," said Col. Eric Mauger, senior national representative of France to the NATO mission in Estonia. "Together, our forces have carried out missions both in Africa as well as here in Estonia in order to contribute to global security and the security of the Baltic states. Working alongside our Estonian and British partners, the 5th Dragoon Regiment has been an integral part of the NATO battlegroup and the Estonian 1st Brigade, and I fully expect the new French contingent to contribute in a valuable way to the defense of Estonia and to deter any adversaries."
Estonian commander: Baltics seeing increased troop contributions
"We have seen increased troop contributions by NATO member states to Europe's easter flank, not only in Estonia but also in the other Baltic states and elsewhere," said Col. Dai Bevan, commander of NATO forces in Estonia. "The scheduled arrival of the Danish Viking Company to Tapa will add to the overall strength of the NATO battlegroup. I thank the 5th Dragoon Regiment for their valuable contribution and I look forward to welcoming the deployment of the new French unit to Tapa, which clearly demonstrates France's commitment to Estonia's security."
In light of the current security situation in Europe, France also decided to accelerate its regular participation in NATO's enhanced Baltic Air Policing mission.
Four Mirage 2000-5F fighter jets previously scheduled to deploy to Estonia by the end of March arrived at Ämari Air Base on Sunday already, along with over 100 airmen. The Mirage jets will be stationed at Ämari through the end of July.
Editor: Aili Vahtla