The United Kingdom (UK) will participate in annual military exercises with Estonia under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) banner with more troops this time around.
Exercise Spring Storm, the largest annual military exercise involving 14,000 personnel from 11 NATO countries from May 15 to May 26, will this time see more than 1,500 British military personnel. It will largely involve ground warfare of armored and artillery action and some airborne maritime strikes across Estonian territory.
This is also just four days after Britain’s Storm Shadow air-to-ground cruise missiles were used by Ukraine to hit meat and chemical processing plants in Lugansk.
Estonia, a Baltic nation, has particularly conducted its diplomacy and military procurement with Russia in mind and has taken a harder stance than Lithuania and Latvia.
Spring Storm 2023 – A British Show
The annual exercise this time will have more than 1,500 British troops, training with 14,000 NATO troops from other countries on varied terrain in Estonia. British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace officially named Russia as the target behind the latest maneuvers.
“While the Russian Army continues their illegal invasion of Ukraine threatening stability in Europe, the UK, and our allies will continue to support Ukraine and defend our shared values and freedom,” Wallace was quoted in Sky News.
The increased number of British personnel involved this year is also consistent with the UK’s earlier commitment to increase the size of its Forward Presence (eFP) battlegroup – which comprises both UK and French forces – to a brigade-sized strength.
The eFP provides a continuous forward NATO presence, with deployed troops acting as a deterrence against any aggression towards the alliance’s borders. The UK-led eFP recently also involved aerial intercepts of Russian aircraft by Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter jets.
Spread across varied Estonian terrain, units will be tested on “realistic battlefield scenarios” that would include trench assaults, light infantry tactics, armored vehicle maneuvers, and reconnaissance missions.
The RAF will also carry out air training exercises, and the Royal Marines Commandos will carry out a beach assault exercise to test the UK’s maritime strike capability.
So far, the military drills seem defensive in nature. It does not include combined offensive maneuvers like amphibious strikes, strategic reconnaissance, and Suppression of Enemy Air Defense/Destruction of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD/DEAD) or the firing of conventional ballistic missiles.
Such an exercise would take place across Europe and not a localized region, with nearly a million troops led by the US, and risk a massive confrontation with Russia, seen only during the height of the sixty-year Cold War.
This iteration of the Spring Storm will see the US military participating with little over 330 infantrymen from the US Army, according to a Tweet by the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF). They will serve under the EDF’s 2nd Infantry Brigade.
This has a diplomatic message to Moscow that conveys the military does not wish to start a war directly – a courtesy that Russia, too, has maintained by not escalating the war into NATO territory.
Other Countries’ Participation
Ahead of the war game, French armored vehicles and artillery weapons like the CAESAR self-propelled howitzer (SPH) and British helicopters like the Westland Lynx arrived at the Tapa military base.
A report from BNS claimed air, ground, and naval units of the Estonian military that, includes the 1st and 2nd Infantry Brigades, the Logistics Service, the Cyber Defense Command, and other formations of the Defense Forces and the Defense League, to be participating. These and other allied units will train under the NATO battle group in Estonia.
Fighters from the German and British Air Forces, attack and training aircraft from the Polish and Estonian Air Forces, as well as helicopters from the USA, Great Britain, and Estonia, will take part in the maneuvers. The Royal Air Force already operates a unit in Estonia as part of the Baltic Air Policing Mission.
The ships of the Estonian Navy will conduct joint exercises with allied units. In turn, in the north of the country, the Defense Forces, together with friendly forces, will practice conducting sea landings and repulsing landings from land.