Russian neighbor Estonia has no ‘demands’ for NATO allies to increase troop presence

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Russian neighbor Estonia has no “demands” for NATO allies to increase their troop presence there, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said on Wednesday, after Germany and Canada outlined plans to deploy thousands more troops in Latvia and Lithuania next door.

Germany, Canada and Britain have since 2017 led international battlegroups of about 1,000 troops in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, respectively, to act as a tripwire in case of a Russian attack and hold the ground before reinforcements arrive.

“No, we don’t have demands (for) our allies. We are very grateful for everything they do for us,” Kallas told Reuters on sidelines of the NATO summit in Vilnius, when asked about whether she would expect Britain to increase its military presence.

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Kallas said Estonian security was served by having British troops deployed outside its borders but exercising in Estonia often and ready to come in at short notice if needed.

“We have an agreement, a functioning agreement with Britain so that we have the allocated forces and they are able to come very fast to Estonia,” she said.

The three Baltic countries are in the top 10 in NATO in terms of how much they spend compared to the size of their economies. But their economies are small and so are their militaries.

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, NATO agreed last July to scale up the battalions in Latvia and Lithuania. In the run-up to the Vilnius summit, Germany pledged to station 4,000 troops in Lithuania and Canada said it could double its deployment by sending up to 1,200 more troops.

The German and Canadian pledges were also contributing to Estonian security, said Kallas.

Asked whether she shares Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s disappointment after NATO allies on Tuesday declared
that Ukraine should be able to join the alliance at a future date, Kallas said: “I understand the frustration.”

“Ukraine wants to live in peace like we are living in peace. We are under NATO’s umbrella, and that’s why we are living in peace, and Russia is not attacking us. And Ukraine wants the same. So I totally, totally understand,” she said.

“What is important is that the overall understanding of the NATO allies is that Ukraine will join NATO... All the big allies are behind those words. And that’s why the debate was so heated, because nobody wants to give empty words and promises that we can’t keep.”

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