British troop deployment to help defend against hybrid threats

Allied Troops at Tapa Military Base.
Allied Troops at Tapa Military Base. Source: Oliver Turp

The U.K. has decided to send 20,000 troops to Northern Europe, including Estonia, next year. The aim is to hamper the enemy's hybrid efforts, also to prevent or disrupt attempts to sabotage undersea infrastructure.

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Friday told participants during a Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) meeting that the country will be dispatching 20,000 troops to Northern Europe, including Estonia, next year. Most of the soldiers and the HMS Queen Elizabeth will be sent to Norway, while a significant number will also be coming to Estonia.

"We are talking about a ballpark figure of 4,000 fighters in Estonia's case. This also concerns the Spring Storm (Kevadtorm) exercise. It concerns naval presence, various smaller exercises (NATO battle group) eFP battalion. All of those things. So yes, we are talking about a considerable presence and boost to regional security," Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur told "Aktuaalne kaamera" news Sunday evening.

"The U.K. pledged eight ships and another 25 aircraft for the Baltic Sea for a considerable increase in British presence," said Kalev Stoicescu, chairman of the Riigikogu National Defense Committee.

The U.K.-led Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) will be tasked primarily with defending local infrastructure from hybrid threats.

"The JEF is a valuable tool in the fight against hybrid threats, to prevent attacks against undersea infrastructure. The recent [suspected] Balticconnector pipeline sabotage attracted attention and was one of the factors behind the decision. /.../ To discourage the enemy from thinking it can commit acts of sabotage with impunity in the future," Stoicescu said.

The soldiers will not arrive in Estonia all at once.

"We have around 2,000-3,000 allied troops in Estonia at any given time, which figure is doubled during exercises. As I said, it will grow to €4,000 for the Brits. That includes land, naval and aerial forces," Pevkur said.

The decision forms a part of long-term defense cooperation between Estonia and the U.K. on which the two countries agreed for the next ten years.

"More detailed numbers will be agreed on an annual basis. /.../ It matters less how many British troops exactly will be in Estonia at any given time. What matters is that the foorprint will grow," the minister remarked.


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Editor: Merili Nael, Marcus Turovski

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