Defense cooperation with key ally the United Kingdom remains strong and is being further intensified after the signing of an agreement by both nations which heralds a longer-term defense vision for Estonia, Estonian Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) says.
"Defensive cooperation between Estonia and the U.K. has been excellent, and we have been moving toward a longer-term defense cooperation agreement, which would set out practical steps for the coming years," Pevkur said.
The minister made his remarks after his first meeting with his U.K. counterpart Grant Shapps, who took office last month, on the sidelines of this week's NATO defense ministers' meeting at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels.
The pair signed a long-term defense cooperation agreement, where the two countries outline their common ambition for meeting the conditions required to implement NATO's defense plans in the next decade.
"The agreement we have signed confirms the bilateral defense cooperation actions and its scope allows us to expand cooperation on land, at sea, in the air, as well as in cyber space. The objective is simple – to integrate the U.K. forces into Estonia's defense, even better," Pevkur went on, via an Estonian Ministry of Defense press release.
The new agreement's primary focus lies in creating the best possible conditions to support high readiness of forces.
"We also confirmed our ambition to align our cooperation to the new NATO regional plans, over the next decade. That means, for example, the allocation of a brigade to Estonia, the deployment exercise of that brigade in 2025, staff officers within the Estonian division, as well as the support of the U.K. towards the creation of the new division," Pevkur went on.
That brigade is the British Army's 12th Armoured Brigade Combat Team, whose commander was recently on an official visit to Estonia.
The brigade will slot into an Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) division, but mostly remain in the U.K. or outside Estonia, with the capability of deploying in Estonia at high readiness when needed. British Army officers are also embedded within the division's HQ structure.
The EDF division also includes the two infantry brigades, heavy infantry units covering North and South Estonia, and other EDF elements.
The Britsh Army brigade is distinct from the Tapa-based NATO battlegroup, though that is British-led also, and the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission based at Ämari.
The agreement signed by Shapps and Pevkur covers maritime and cyberspace dimensions also.
The importance of joint planning and integration of the British forces into Estonia's defense are underscored by regular exercises and the deployment plan for the British allocated brigade support, the Estonian defense ministry says.
Ministers Pevkur and Shapps at their meeting also discussed the need to continue aid to Ukraine, and where the U.K. has been in the forefront, the need to urgently implement the defense plans agreed at the NATO Vilnius Summit in July, and allied investments into defense capabilities.
Our commitment to NATO is unshakable, unwavering, and undeniable.— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) October 12, 2023
We are an indispensable ally, and don't let anyone tell you different. pic.twitter.com/cyAP5sLmSI
Grant Shapps replaced Ben Wallace as Britain's defense secretary; relations between the latter and his Estonian counterpart were particularly warm. Wallace visited Estonia in an official capacity several times while in office.
Editor: Andrew Whyte