Estonia to build reception areas for 1,600 more Allied soldiers

Opening of the NATO Reception, Staging and Onward Movement (RSOM) area in Tapa.
Opening of the NATO Reception, Staging and Onward Movement (RSOM) area in Tapa. Source: Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Joint Headquarters /

In addition to the infrastructure already in place, Estonia is set to build reception areas for more than a thousand Allied troops in Tapa and near Võru by the end of the year. However, the facilities, which will accommodate around 1,600 people in total, will not be permanent bases and are only intended to host Allied troops on a temporary basis.

While Latvia and Lithuania are planning to permanently host additional allied troops on their territory, Estonia is approaching the situation differently.

Reception areas are to be built, where U.K. brigade units assigned to Estonia's defense, can be accommodated while taking part in training exercises or in the event of a crisis.

"Two reception areas are currently under construction. The expansion of the reception area in Tapa, which will have four new accommodation halls and two washing buildings and be able to accommodate around 650 people, began last year," Kadi-Kai Kollo, head of the infrastructure department at the Estonian National Center for Defense Investment (RKIK), told ERR.

"In addition to that, a brand new southern reception area is under construction next to the existing Tsiatsungõlmaa (training area) shooting range. Eight accommodation halls are to be built on the site, accommodating approximately 1,000 people. Equipment maintenance halls, a kitchen with dining halls, laundry buildings and storage halls will also be built there," Kollo said.

The extension of the Tapa reception area and the first Allied accommodation facility near Võru are both due to be completed by the end of this year.

Kollo pointed out, that Estonia already has two reception areas. The reception area in Tapa was completed in 2020 and consists of 11 halls as well as camping and parking areas. It also has accommodation and staff buildings, a canteen and an equipment maintenance center. The accommodation halls accommodate 820 people and the three dining halls fit around 900.

A service village was completed during the last decade, which also provides temporary accommodation for Allied troops. It has a mess hall, laundry facilities,  refueling station, and camping area with all the necessary communications equipment. At the moment, the area is mainly used for training purposes, said Kollo.

Reception areas are intended for short-term accommodation of units

Kollo explained that a reception area (RSOM - Reception, Staging and Onward Movement) is not a polygon, where training exercises would take place. Instead, it is designed for the reception and assembly of allied units in order to facilitate their arrival in Estonia and enable them to reach a state of combat readiness.

"These areas are ideally suited for receiving and accommodating units during exercises or in a crisis situation for example, whereby, after a short stay, the units move to operational areas or return to their home country. The reception areas include accommodation halls, mess halls, technical halls and platforms, laundry facilities and other buildings needed for the reception of Allied forces," said Kollo.

According to Kollo, the reception areas have to located in the immediate vicinity of Estonian Defense Force (EDF) camps and training areas. This is because forming units usually means not only the setting up equipment and accommodating soldiers. It also involves integration with other units, mainly those from the EDF, as well as setting up weapons and, if necessary, operating them.

Different levels of training and preparation for operations are also required.

"Geographically, the reception areas in Estonia are planned for the immediate vicinity of both brigades. However, in the future they may also be established near important landing sites, such as Paldiski or Ämari," said Kollo.

There are no special conditions required in terms of the landscape for the reception areas, and the principles of accessibility are quite similar to those of the EDF facilities.

Kollo added that so far all the reception areas have been in relatively intensive use. However, technically they are designed in a way that means they can easily be adjusted to keep consumption levels to a minimum while ensuring maintenance when not in full use.

Kallas and Herem: Estonia's approach differs from Latvia's and Lithuania's

On Tuesday, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said, that unlike Latvia and Lithuania, which are both planning to invite NATO brigades to be stationed permanently on their territory, it is not a problem that the U.K. does not keep its brigade in Estonia on a permanent basis.

Head of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Gen. Martin Herem echoed those sentiments on ETV show "Aktuaalne kaamera."

"Some countries are prepared to invest hundreds of millions in infrastructure to keep Allied troops on their own territory, while others are prepared to keep thousands of their own soldiers and their families in a foreign country," said Herem.

"We have decided to do things differently. We will invest more money in military capabilities and train this brigade to come here," he added.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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