Today the Estonian Defence Minister Jüri Luik met with his British counterpart Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace who is on a two-day visit to Estonia. The Defence Ministers discussed the UK’s contribution to NATO’s battlegroup in Tapa, cooperation in NATO and other formats and regional security issues. Also under discussion was the future of the mission in Afghanistan, where Estonian soldiers are serving in the UK led Kabul Security Force. Tomorrow they will visit the Tapa military base to meet Estonian and UK soldiers.
„The United Kingdom is one of the most important allies to Estonia, with whom we fully share the same understanding of the European security threats from Russia. The over 800 UK soldiers in Estonia and today’s meeting affirm this and we are thankful for the UK's commitment“ said Defence Minister Luik after the meeting. The United Kingdom’s Defence Minister Ben Wallace likewise confirmed that Estonian and UK’s defence cooperation began already 102 years ago during the Estonian War of Independence and that the UK is ready to continue its contribution to the region's security for as long as necessary, including maintaining their battalion in the NATO battlegroup in Estonia.
Defence Minister Luik also welcomed the UK government’s decision to increase defence investments and expressed hope that other NATO members will follow the example of the UK and Estonia. Defence Minister Wallace added that the UK's decision to leave the European Union will not decrease their contribution to the region's security. Instead in line with the new integrated review on defence a bigger and stronger UK presence can be expected in Estonia and elsewhere in the world. Defence Minister Luik stressed that Brexit will not hinder in any way the defence cooperation with the UK and the UK's battalion in Estonia is the best example of that.
The ministers also discussed regional security, cooperation in the Northern Group, Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) and in the cyber domain.
Tomorrow the Defence Ministers will visit the NATO battlegroup at Tapa, consisting of UK's and Danish forces. Next year a French company will take over the Danish rotation.
Estonian and UK's defence cooperation began already during the Estonian War of Independence, when the British Royal Navy brought weapons and equipment to new-born Estonia. Today close defence cooperation continues in maintaining NATO's deterrence in Estonia, but also on operations in Afghanistan and Mali.