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The government pledged earlier this year to send a UK battalion to help bolster Europe’s eastern borders, alongside another 3,000 NATO troops.

"We will work harder for our alliances and partnerships when we leave the EU because we are committed to the defence of our continent. That’s why we are moving troops to the NATO mission in Estonia, a company to Poland and RAF Typhoon fighter aircraft to the Black Sea."

– Sir Michael Fallon MP, Defence Secretary

It’s been 25 years since Estonia, on Europe’s eastern flank, broke away from the Soviet Union.

Since then, the tiny country has enjoyed prosperous independence, becoming part of both the EU and NATO.

However, its people watched with horror three years ago as Russia annexed Crimea.

As a country of just 1.3 million residents, many worry that they will be next.

The Estonian Air Force has no jets and relies entirely on NATO firepower, with the Baltic Policing Mission patrolling the skies.

Earlier this year, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States each agreed to lead a multinational battalion in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

The UK is taking the lead in Estonia, with 5 RIFLES making up the bulk of the battlegroup. They will be based in the small town of Tapa.

5 RIFLES will arrive in the spring with French and Danish units attached, and equipped with Warrior armoured vehicles.

The main force will number about 800 troops, rapidly reinforceable by NATO if required.

5 RIFLES will be in Estonia for a six-month tour and will be replaced in the autumn by another battalion.

This will be the first time since the Cold War that multinational troops will continually rotate through countries in Eastern Europe, on the border with Russia.

Russia has criticised the build-up, claiming it amounts to encirclement by NATO.

British troops have been warned they could be subject to Russian spying, hacking or subversion during their tour.

This is a deployment designed to show Russia that NATO can and will defend all its members.

Reported by Forces.net

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