British Troops Arrive in Estonia on 3rd Anniversary of Russian Invasion of Crimea
The first 120 men of an 800-strong fighting force from the British Army arrived in Estonia on March 17 -- the eve of the 3rd anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea -- to deter Russia from repeating this scenario with an invasion of Estonia and the two other Baltic States.
The lead force from the 5th Battalion The Rifles Battlegroup (5 RIFLES) arrived at Ämari Air Base in Estonia along with their weapons and equipment. The entire unit consists of 800 British fighting men armed with FV4034 Challenger 2 main battle tanks; AS90 150 mm self-propelled guns and Warrior infantry fighting vehicles.
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Estonian defense minister Margus Tsahkna greeted the British soldiers at Ämari after they were flown in from RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire.
5 RIFLES will be based at the town of Tapa, some 130 km from the Russian border. Fighting vehicles from British Army's 20 Armored Infantry Brigade have arrived at the port of Emden, Germany for transport to Estonia
They will take part in exercises alongside the Estonian Defense Forces, the unified armed forces of Estonia. The Estonian military is a defense force consisting of Land Forces, Navy, Air Force and the Estonian Defense League, a paramilitary organization.
The British troops will also take part in regional drills coordinated with other NATO contingents deployed to Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. The UK also has 150 troops in a US-battle group based in Poland.
The deployment is the biggest of its kind from the UK since the Cold War.
British Secretary of State for Defense Sir Michael Fallon described the deployment of 5 RIFLES to Estonia as a "defensive deployment" to deter Russian aggression in the Baltics.
Fallon said action in the Baltics was needed "because of the increased Russian aggression that we've seen and the need to reassure our allies on the eastern side of NATO."
He said the deployment isn't intended to "provoke or escalate" Russian aggression, but is in accordance with NATO's wishes to deter the threat posed by Russia.