I was pleased to join crew from four naval ships, forming a NATO deployment, in Falmouth. Our Royal Navy vessel is working alongside three European naval vessels, including one from Estonia. This week they will be heading to the Baltic to undertake mine clearance and participate in NATO support for our allies.
120 soldiers from the 5th Battalion The Rifles, including from Cornwall, deployed to Estonia this week to set up a UK headquarters in the country before the remaining 680 troops arrive in April.
The defence secretary said they would deter “Russian aggression”. The UK is taking a leading role in NATO’s “enhanced forward presence” operation, aimed at reinforcing the alliance’s eastern border.
Tensions between Estonia and Russia increased as a result of the Ukraine conflict, which resulted in the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014.
The UK-led Estonia battlegroup is one of four NATO multinational deployments to eastern Europe, which were agreed to at the 2016 Warsaw summit. Other NATO armies are sending forces to Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, where 150 UK personnel will also be sent as part of a rotating deployment.
Separately, the Royal Air Force has committed to providing Typhoon jets to bolster air defences in Romania for four months.
While it is understandable that Estonia is building a fence along its borders to defend itself against Russia, it is nonetheless sad. Also, an important reminder that it is important to both show our support for our allies in Europe and work hard to build the peaceful and secure Europe we all want to see.
Finally, it was an honour to join the 75th commemoration of the St Nazaire Raid from Falmouth with the Honorary French Consul. It was a moving reminder of our countries long standing shared bonds of friendship.