Estonian defense ministry: NATO divisional HQ should be ready in early 2023

Member states' leaders at the June 2022 NATO Madrid summit.
Member states' leaders at the June 2022 NATO Madrid summit. Source: Jürgen Randma

The Ministry of Defense says it hopes to establish the proposed NATO divisional headquarters, in conjunction with the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF), by early next year. The news follows the decision made at the NATO Madrid Summit at the end of June, to set up such a division.

Madis Roll, head of the NATO and EU department at the ministry, put the figure of staff officers needed at around 100, to be housed in a building which ticks the boxes so far as security requirements go.

Roll said: "While Estonia does not need to make any additional amendments in terms of staff, this may be the case in respect of the additional allied units that will be part of the division. This is a bonus for the area of training."

The newly-formed division would not be entirely based in Estonia at all times, with the idea being that rapid reaction forces appended to the division would be redeployed in Estonia in the event of a potential conflict situation and joining their EDF and NATO colleagues. As noted the divisional HQ would be permanently based in Estonia.

"If we consider our situation on the eve of any conflict situation, we have EDF units here, allied units who are already present here – the two battle groups, and we should definitely get NATO rapid response units here, plus additional those units from allies which have been permitted on a bilateral basis," he went on.

"We need some kind of command structure for all of this arrangement, for the conglomeration of troops. We need to coordinate these units, and make plans for how these units will operate in a conflict situation," said Roll.

This all needs coordinating during peacetime; a conflict situation is too late to carry out such tasks, he added – while the HQ would oversee all deployment and logistics within the division.

ERR reports that the defense ministry wants to conclude its agreement with the allies in the fall, though the division coming to full fruition take more like years.

At present, Estonia hosts a NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battlegroup at Tapa. U.K.-led, the other main allied nations contributing to its manpower are Denmark and France, as well as, in the past, Belgium. Following the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, the battlegroup has more than doubled in size, to a little under a thousand to over 2,000 and in fact consists of two core British army units – armor and heavy infantry – whereas there was previously just the one.

Set up in 2016, the eFP became a reality in early 2017 and is distinct from the NATO air policing mission based at Ämari, which became a reality in 2014.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mari Peegel

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