Sunak in Estonia: UK is delivering on NATO Madrid summit commitments

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Rishi Sunak and Kaja Kallas at Tapa on December 19, 2022.
Rishi Sunak and Kaja Kallas at Tapa on December 19, 2022. Source: Stenbocki maja

Great Britain is honoring commitments made earlier this year to increase military capabilities in Estonia despite withdrawing hundreds of troops earlier this year, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said during a one-day visit to Estonia.

Sunak visited Tapa military base in central Estonia along with Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) on Monday.

The pair met with some of the foreign and Estonian troops stationed at the base. The UK has led Estonia's Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battlegroup since 2017.

Speaking to the evening news show "Aktuaalne kaamera", Sunak said: "What I'd say to Estonians is that we are delivering on the commitments made in the NATO summit in Madrid."

At the June summit, the UK pledged to have a battalion on standby in the UK ready to be sent to Estonia at a moment's notice and to create a division headquarters in Estonia.

Rishi Sunak and Kaja Kallas at Tapa on December 19, 2022. Source: Stenbocki maja

After Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, the UK doubled its deployment at Tapa. But the extra troops were sent back home earlier this month.

Sunak denied this showed a lack of commitment to Estonia.

"There was always a temporary surge in troops but what we are actually doing is increasing the capability of our presence here," he said.

"Increasing the legality of it, we're also supporting the Estonian armed forces here with their division headquarters, we're keeping other resources at readiness so that they can be deployed here at a moment's notice and we're going to increase the amount of exercises we do here in Estonia. You will see that next year when helicopters arrive.

"And what I would say, is that we remain absolutely committed to Estonia, to the NATO forward presence we have here, that's why I'm here visiting as prime minister and that commitment will always continue."

NATO's Eastern Flank (June 2022). Source: NATO

Estonia's eFP battlegroup is made up of British, Danish and French troops. The majority - approximately 900 - are British.

Sunak is on a one-day visit to Estonia after participating in the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) meeting with high-ranking officials from the Baltics, Nordics and the Netherlands in Riga, Latvia earlier today.

The two prime ministers flew back to Tallinn aboard the British government's plane earlier this evening.

Prime ministers serve Christmas dinner to NATO troops

While on their visit to Tapa, Sunak and Kallas donned aprons to serve Christmas dinner to eFP troops.

Kallas wrote on social media that she was glad to welcome Sunak to Tapa.

"We thanked the eFP troops for strengthening our joint security. There's a strong spirit of Alliance in the air as a momentous year for NATO draws to a close," she wrote.

Commander of the UK forces at Tapa Col Dai Bevan wrote: "Turkey, mince pies and two Prime Ministers! Thank you so much Rishi Sunak and Kaja Kallas for helping the NATO eFP Battlegroup in Estonia to celebrate Christmas, recognizing the security they bring."

British prime ministers often visit forces stationed abroad at Christmas time, and former PM Boris Johnson visited the same base in December 2019.

Editor's note: This article was updated to add comments from Rishi Sunak.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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