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US-Estonian joint military exercises come to a close


US-Estonian joint military exercises come to a close

Photo: Reuters / Ints Kalnins

A ten-day joint military training exercise between US Armed Forces and Estonian Defence Forces will conclude today amid increasing strain between Russia and the West.

The operation, supervised by 70 troops from the US Army’s 41st Field Artillery Brigade, included drills for multiple launch rocket systems conducted only 70 miles away from the Russian border. The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the drills as “provocative” and “dangerous for regional stability,” playing into Moscow’s narrative of Western intrusion in an unstable Belarus. However, President Alexander Lukashenko’s recent military posturing in western Belarus and President Vladimir Putin’s stated willingness to send police forces into the country if necessary suggest that the Estonian drills are intended to signal NATO’s resolve in the face of Russian assertiveness.

Further tensions in the Baltics will likely depend on the outcome of Belarus’ political unrest. Considering Russia’s firm support for Lukashenko, increased martial posturing is likely to occur. Expect similar joint exercises in Poland, where the bulk of the US military presence in Eastern Europe is based. Similarly, Washington may attempt to shore up a flagging NATO alliance, using the crisis as another reason for Germany to upgrade its military commitment, in addition to encouraging cooperation with US-financed economic and energy projects that reduce dependence on Russian exports.

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