Minister: Austin confirms increase in US troop presence in Estonia

  • 2022-09-08
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – Estonia's Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur said after a meeting of the contact group for assistance to Ukraine with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany that the US minister confirmed a pending increase in the presence of US units in Estonia.

"Secretary of Defense Austin confirmed that, as agreed at the Madrid Summit, the United States will increase the continuous rotation of US units and training exercises in Estonia and the other Baltic countries in the near future. This is a strong signal of the continued US presence in the region and will help to enhance our common deterrence on NATO's eastern flank," Pevkur said through spokespeople. 

At the fifth high-level meeting held in the so-called Ramstein format, at the level of ministers of defense, representatives of more than 40 countries discussed further assistance to Ukraine, in which supporting the training of Ukrainian defense forces is becoming more and more important.

According Pevkur, Estonia will continue to support Ukraine with armaments and, in the future, with training in ever increasingly volumes.

"The clear message from today's meeting is that training is becoming as important as arms and equipment in supporting Ukraine, as it supports the growth and sustainability of the Ukrainian armed forces. This will be crucial in the coming months, when Ukraine has a real opportunity to seize the initiative on the battlefield," said Pevkur. 

The meeting also discussed the possibilities of increasing the production volumes of the defense industry of the Western countries, which is necessary both to support Ukraine and to replenish the stocks of the Western countries themselves.

"I called on all countries, following Estonia's example, to first and foremost increase their own defense expenditures, which is actually the fastest and most efficient way for the defense industry to actually increase production volumes through large orders," the Estonian minister noted.    

Since the beginning of the tensions, Estonia has supported Ukraine with 250 million euros in military aid, which equals one-third of Estonia's defense budget. The latest aid package, approved by the government in August, includes both arms and training, as well as the provision of a second field hospital to Ukraine in cooperation with Germany. The second field hospital will arrive in Ukraine in the near future, and the NGO Slava Ukraini is also contributing an amount of 120,000 euros to the project.

The so-called Ramstein Conference, or Ukraine Defense Consultative Group, is a US-initiated format that first took place in Ramstein on April 26. Before Thursday's meeting, two physical and two online ministerial meetings of the group have taken place.