NATO became stronger through its enlargement 10 years ago and since then the UK has developed an especially close partnership with Estonia. This is a partnership based on the proven capability and commitment of our Estonian allies, including their strategic decision to invest more than 2% of national GDP in defence.
In this and many other areas of defence policy and action, Estonia is a model for others to follow. Fundamentally, the UK military wants to work closely in the future with Estonian forces because we know they are capable and effective. This has been proved in Afghanistan. In support of the NATO International Security Assistance Force mission, an Estonian infantry company from the Scouts Battalion in Paldiski has served under British operational command in Helmand province since 2005. . . .
As we look beyond Afghanistan, the UK and Estonia are agreed that we should deepen future defence engagement. 2013 saw engagement at the most senior levels, with visits to Estonia by the UK Defence Minister, the Chief of the Defence Staff and the UK Chief of Joint Operations. UK soldiers also came to Estonia on exercises for the first time in nearly 10 years, and will return again this year. The depth and quality of our relationship was confirmed formally by the signing of a Defence and Security Cooperation agreement in December 2013. This agreement, and the extensive bilateral co-operation work plan which went with it, are evidence of the UK’s close ties and commitment to engage in joint activities with Estonia, and make clear that the UK’s defence relationship with Estonia is now closer than with almost any other country.
Chris Holtby OBE has been the British Ambassador to Estonia since January 2012.