Kallas: I've requested call with Liz Truss on UK troop situation in Estonia
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says she has requested a phone call with her British counterpart Liz Truss, following reports that the number of British troops based in Estonia is to be roughly halved at the end of this year.
Kallas noted that those UK troops who will be leaving Estonia by Christmas were part of a set-up never intended to be permanent, and which followed the Madrid Summit and the changed security situation after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Kallas told ERR that: "I have a very good relationship with the previous UK prime minister and also with the current prime minister, with whom I certainly can talk about these topics, and the same can be said of the Minister of Defense," adding she had asked for a separate phone call with the new British Prime Minister on this topic.
Appearing before the Riigikogu for question time Wednesday, Kallas noted that the additional British contingent emerged last year, during her tenure as prime minister.
"It came here with additional aspects that weren't there before. Tt was known from the start that this was to be temporary; it's just a question of when that temporary will end," Kallas told the chamber.
Furthermore: "It was indeed discussed with the previous prime minister (Boris Johnson – ed.) about what this temporary deployment of troops means and how they see it. Until now, it has been stated that our security situation at the moment requires that we take additional steps regarding the fulfillment of NATO agreements. And it is not very vital that these be specifically British forces, but rather NATO forces in general," she said.
An article published by UK daily The Times Wednesday morning reported that a battalion, in this case around 700 people, which has been based in Estonia since February is returning to the UK in December while, as things stand, it will not be replaced.
Critics say this would send the wrong message to the Kremlin, while as noted the unit's deployment to Estonia was never intended to be a permanent measure.
The existing enhanced UK-led Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup based at Tapa since early 2017 remains in place and indeed just received a new lead unit, the King's Royal Hussars.
The number of UK troops in Estonia more than doubled between the start of this year and the summer, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
New British Prime Minister Liz Truss has pledged to boost defense spending to 3 percent of GDP by 2030, while Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has said that annual spending will be around as much as £100 billion (c. €112.1 billion) per annum by that time.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte