A total of 300 soldiers, four tanks and 25 infantry fighting vehicles will be dispatched on Tuesday to Tapa, which is located 90 miles from the Russian border, where they will be stationed until August, according to the website of the French embassy in Estonia. The contingent, which will serve in the UK-led battle group, is comprised of the French army’s second brigade, as well as Foreign Legion soldiers. Contingent member Major Marc Antoine said: “We are very pleased that we can work together with our allies and improve our interoperability.”
Separately, Russia’s defence ministry announced today it would upgrade its Black Sea forces to counter what it perceived as NATO aggression.
Moscow is deeply unhappy at NATO buildup’s along its borders, and the relationship with NATO has all but broken down, especially since Russia’s annexation of Crimea and presence in the Donbass area of Ukraine.
Earlier this month, Russia’s deputy foreign minister Alexander Grushko told Russian news agency RIA Novosti: “NATO has itself abandoned a positive agenda in its relations with Russia. It doesn’t exist.
“And so far there are no signs that NATO knows how to get out of this impasse.”
Also last month, Mikhail Popov, deputy secretary of the Security Council of Russia, cautioned against the troop build-up, which he said was at its highest level since the Cold War.
He told the Red Star newspaper: “The US and NATO’s anti-Russian activity resulted in the chance that ‘military dangers’ might transform into ‘military threats’.”
Earlier in April, Russian warships tracked a NATO fleet including US guided missile destroyer USS Gravely and frigates from Poland, Turkey and Spain.
Moscow said the Baltic Sea Fleet forces had carried out similar operations several times following NATO incursions into the Baltic Sea this year.
In a speech to the US Congress in April to commemorate the 70th anniversary of NATO’s founding, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg called for unity against Russian aggression.
He said: “We do all of this not to provoke a conflict but to prevent conflict and to preserve peace. Not to fight but to deter. Not to attack but to defend.”
Speaking last year, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid urged NATO to spending more bolstering defences in the key strategic region.
She said her country was already spending 2.2 percent of its overall economic output on the military and could not afford to spend more, even though there were additional military needs.
The Estonian President added: “Our little country cannot do more than it is already doing. But more needs to be done in our region.”
Mr Macron has previously floated the idea of a Europe-wide army to counter external threats.
Speaking in February, chairman of the Munich Security Conference Wolfgang Ischinger appeared to back the plan, saying: “The nuclear deployment options of France should cover not only their own territory, but also the territory of the EU partners.
“The community must be increasingly able to protect its citizens, the European territory and the external borders.”