U.K. sends 120 troops to Estonia for NATO mission

By Ryan Maass  |  March 20, 2017 at 10:27 AM
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March 20 (UPI) -- Around 120 soldiers from Britain's 5th Battalion The Rifles Battlegroup arrived in Estonia as part of an effort to boost NATO's presence in the region.

According to the U.K. Ministry of Defense, the move marks one of the largest British deployments to Eastern Europe in decades. After establishing a headquarters in the country, the battalion will now be bringing the total number of British troops deployed there to around 800.

The deployment is intended to showcase Britain's commitment to the collective European security initiative. The forces will soon be joined by additional troops from France and Denmark at the request of the Estonian government.

"In the face of an increasingly assertive Russia, NATO is stepping up its commitment to collective defense," U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said in a press release. "British troops will play a leading role in Estonia and support our U.S. allies in Poland, as part of wider efforts to defend NATO."

In addition to providing a heavier security presence, U.K. troops will conduct military training exercises alongside Estonian counterparts.

"The U.K. and Estonia have a long and proud history of serving together, including in Afghanistan, so it is an honor to lead 5 Rifles on this deployment as part of NATO's enhanced forward presence," commanding officer Lt. Col. Mark Wilson added.

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