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JEF sending ships to increase protection of Baltic Sea undersea infrastructure

JEF member state vessels during an exercise in 2021.
JEF member state vessels during an exercise in 2021. Source: U.K. Ministry of Defense/social media

Military vessels and aircraft will be sent to protect critical undersea infrastructure and strengthen deterrence in the Baltic Sea, Nordic Sea, and Danish Straits, the 10 European countries participating in the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) agreed on Tuesday.

The JEF coalition includes Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Norway and is led by the UK. It focuses on the Baltic Sea, the High North, and the North Atlantic regions.

The decision to launch a Joint Response Option (JRO) for the first time was made on Tuesday, which the UK's Ministry of Defense called a "powerful message of our ability and commitment" to protecting the region in a statement.

"Maritime and Air capabilities" will be sent to the regions to protect critical undersea infrastructure in early December, the ministry said, adding it will strengthen "common efforts with NATO".

Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (third from left) at the meeting of JEF defense ministers in Amsterdam, June 13, 2023. Source: Ministry of Defense

Susan Lilleväli, undersecretary for Defence Readiness, who represented the Estonian Ministry of Defense at the meeting, said: "This is a tangible demonstration of the JEF as a credible contributor to security in Northern Europe. The Estonian Navy will play its part in the successful fulfillment of this exercise."

The Estonian Ministry of Defense said Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, and the UK will send various equipment, including patrol ships, frigates, maritime patrol aircraft, helicopters, and minesweepers to the Baltic Sea region.

The UK will send its frigate HMS Richmond to protect Estonian and Finnish ships. The Estonian Navy will contribute two patrol vessels. 

The decision comes after a Hong Kong-flagged vessel damaged the undersea Balticconnector gas pipeline and several communications cables between Estonia, Finland, and Sweden in October.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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