NATO continues to expand its military presence in Eastern Europe, as tensions with Russia over the situation in Ukraine remain high.
A plane carrying more than 50 French soldiers arrived today at the Amari Air Base in Estonia, a country in the Baltics that shares a border with Russia.
The arrival is the beginning of the deployment of 300 French troops to the British-led multinational NATO battalion. France will also contribute with tanks, vehicles and artillery.
“First, we are expecting to train our inter-operability with the British Army and the Estonian Army to improve our level,” said Colonel Michel De Mesmay. “It is the reason why we come here with a lot of equipment such as the Maiden battle tank and infantry fighting vehicles in order to carry out a robust training.”
US Army Lt. Colonel Steven Gventer was more concrete, saying that NATO’s military engagement in Estonia is: “A mission, not a cycle of training events.”
Gventer also said: “The purpose is to deter aggression in the Baltics and in Poland… we are fully ready to be lethal.”
The West, as well as several Eastern European countries are accusing Russia of aiding the rebels in Eastern Ukraine. In response to the perceived ‘Russian aggression’ in Ukraine, NATO has deployed troops and military equipment in Poland, the Baltics, as well as Romania and Bulgaria.
The UK, Canada and Germany are leading the other three battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which are due to be operational by June.
They will have support from a host of NATO nations, including France.
In total, around 4,000 NATO troops will monitor for – and defend against – any potential Russian incursions.
Moscow rejects Western accusations of aggressive agenda in Eastern Europe, and maintains that increased NATO military presence on Russian borders is a threat to its security. Russia has responded by staging large military exercise and expanding its military forces along its Western border.