TALLINN, Apr 20, BNS - The presence of allies in Estonia further increases Estonia's feeling of confidence and security, Prime Minister Juri Ratas said in his remarks at the ceremony marking the start of the presence of an allied battle group in Estonia.
Ratas said the arrival of the allied battle group at Tapa very clearly demonstrates the solidarity of NATO, spokespeople for the Estonian government said.
"The presence of allies further increases our feeling of confidence and security and creates preconditions in Estonia for bolder investment activity, enlivening of the economy, increase in the number of jobs and wages, a better infrastructure, and an increase in the quality of living," the head of government said.
Ratas described the current week as historic. "This week one of the most important defense policy goals of Estonia was fulfilled with the stationing of a NATO battalion battle group in Estonia," Ratas said, adding that security is not something that can be taken for granted and one has to work toward it every day.
"The purpose of NATO is to preserve peace. The stationing of the battle group in Estonia is part of the actions of the alliance to strengthen the deterrence and defense posture of NATO," the prime minister said, adding that this was a response to aggressive behavior by Russia.
Ratas said that along with strengthening the deterrence and defense posture, NATO is open to a political dialogue with Russia aimed at preventing potential miscalculations and ensuring transparency of the activity of the alliance.
The head of government emphasized that the presence of the battle group in Estonia does not mean that we can put our feet up now. "We will go on strengthening the security of our country, by means of both stronger allied relationships and developing our own defense forces."
The prime minister added that the NATO battle group will remain in Estonia for as long as necessary, depending on the security situation.
The ceremony at the Tapa compound of the Estonian defense forces on Thursday was attended by UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, Danish Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen and Estonian Defense Minister Margus Tsahkna. France was represented by Gen. Didier Castres, representative of the defense minister of France.
Also present were President Kersti Kaljulaid, speaker of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor, commander of the defense forces Gen. Riho Terras, deputy chief of NATO forces in Europe Gen. James Everard, chief of Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum Gen. Salvatore Farina and other representatives of Estonia and allies.
The 1,200-strong contingent of allies arrived at Tapa in the course of the past just over a month. The core of the contingent is made up of approximately 800 UK personnel, equipped with Challenger 2 tanks, Warrior infantry fighting vehicles and AS90 self-propelled artillery. France has sent a contingent of 300 soldiers to Estonia, armed with Leclerc tanks, VBCI infantry fighting vehicles and VAB armored personnel carriers. The French will be replaced by Danes at Tapa after eight months.
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