The NATO battle group stationed in Estonia marked the beginning of its service with a ceremony and military parade at the 1st Infantry Battalion's Tapa Army Base on Thursday afternoon.
Nearly 1,500 troops from the U.K., France and Estonia participated in the military parade, the opening ceremony of which included speeches by British Secretary of State for Defence Sir Michael Fallon, Danish Minister of Defence Claus Hjort Frederiksen and Estonian Minister of Defence Margus Tsahkna. British, French and Danish soldiers also raised their respective national flags during the ceremony.
In his speech, Tsahkna said that the arrival of the allied battle group marked a clear assurance that Estonia was not alone and must never again stand up against threats alone, spokespeople for the Ministry of Defence said.
"Today's ceremony symbolizes the resolve and unity of NATO," Tsahkna said. "Our allies' troops standing here is a powerful signal that when we say 'All for one, one for all,' we mean that. The free world is united and the values and principles we are here to defend are eternal. We know we can count on allies and allies know that they can always count on us. By standing together, we are strong."
In addition to the three defense ministers, the ceremony and parade were also attended by President Kersti Kaljulaid, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor and Commander of the Estonian Defence Force Gen. Riho Terras, representative of the French Minister of Defence and Veterans Affairs Didier Castres, NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe James Everard, Commander of the Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum Gen. Salvatore Farina as well as other representatives of allied countries and the Estonian state.
There are approximately 1,200 allied soldiers in the battle group stationed at Tapa. The U.K. is contributing more than 800 troops and a range of combat equipment, including Challenger 2 tanks, Warrior infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), AS90 self-propelled artillery as well as armored vehicles. France is contributing 300 personnel and various equipment, including Leclerc tanks, VBCI IFVs and VAB armored vehicles.
The French will be serving at Tapa for the next eight months, after which they will hand over responsibility to a Danish contingent of similar size.
The leaders of NATO member states decided at the Warsaw Summit last July to station NATO battle groups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland in response to the changed security environment. The allied battle group based in Estonia will be led by the U.K. and supported by France and Denmark.
Editor: Aili Vahtla
Source: ERR, BNS