The US will send an infantry company and a HIMARS multiple-launch rocket system to Estonia in the coming weeks to strengthen NATO’s eastern flank amid the Ukraine crisis, the Estonian Defense Ministry said on Thursday.
At the NATO summit in Madrid in June, US President Joe Biden pledged to build up US military assets in the Baltic states and ensure the country’s permanent presence in the region. In early December, Tallinn signed a $200 million contract with Washington to purchase HIMARS systems.
“In the coming weeks, the United States will deploy additional rotational forces to Estonia in order to strengthen NATO’s forward defenses and increase the security of its Allies,” the defense ministry said in a statement, adding that the deployment would consist of “an infantry company and a HIMARS platoon, as well as associated command and control equipment and systems.”
This marks an important step in ensuring a US rotational military presence in Estonia and the Baltic countries, Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur was cited as saying in the statement.
“We expect to receive our own HIMARS systems by 2025, so being able to learn the ropes early with the U.S. troops will make the adoption even smoother and win us critical time,” Pevkur added.
A US military unit will participate in joint exercises with the Estonian defense forces, the statement read. The parties are also scheduled to establish a divisional structure in Estonia within the framework of NATO, it added.
“The Estonian division will receive rigorous training to further develop its readiness and interoperability with our closest Allies in order to defend Estonia and the Alliance,” the minister said.
NATO has been boosting its eastern flank since late 2021 by dispatching additional troops. In response to Russia launching a military operation in Ukraine, NATO announced its plans to further reinforce the alliance’s flank by sending additional forces to the region and putting them on high alert.
There has been a surge in demand for HIMARS systems after they received publicity through their combat deployment in Ukraine. Along with Estonia, several other countries have announced their intention to purchase this type of weaponry from the United States. Those include Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Australia.
Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Thursday that the United States is encouraging Ukraine to further escalate the conflict and is practically sabotaging efforts to reach a political settlement through statements and arms supplies to Kyiv.
The Russian official said that he was concerned by the statement of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who stated earlier in the week that the US would not prevent Ukraine from developing long-range missiles.
“It is in fact, encouraging the Kyiv regime to escalate while supported by the US and other NATO states. It is practically a call for erasing any prospects of returning to the political dialogue in the format of negotiations,” Ryabkov told the Rossiya 24 broadcaster.
Russia’s senior diplomat also noted that it was Washington and its allies that sabotaged negotiations between Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul in April.
Since Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine on February 24, Western countries have been providing Kyiv with humanitarian, military, and financial aid. Moscow has denounced the flow of weapons to Ukraine from its Western allies, saying it adds fuel to the fire. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that any cargo containing weapons for Ukraine would become a legitimate target for Russia.
Via Sputnik News Agency