NATO holds drills on Russia’s border — Analysis
Bold Dragon exercises are aimed at getting the newly-arrived alliance servicemen train on Estonia’s terrain
This weekend, British, French and Danish soldiers who arrived recently to join NATO Battlegroup Estonia started joint drills alongside Estonian forces.
The ongoing Bold Dragon exercises, involving the foreign troops and members of Estonia’s 1st Infantry Brigade, are being held at the Estonian military’s central training area in the north of the Baltic state.
They aim to give the new arrivals from Western Europe the chance to familiarize themselves with Estonian culture and to improve cooperation with local servicemen.
According to the 1st Infantry Brigade, drill participants practiced defensive and offensive maneuvers on Saturday and Sunday. It said that approximately 2,000 Estonian soldiers are participating in war games. The drill will conclude with a tactical exercise at battalion level on Wednesday and Thursday.
Bold Dragon drills include aviation as well, such as British Eurofighter jets and Wildcats.
“In the days to come, each subunit of the battlegroup – from the UK, Denmark as well as France – will show what they are capable of, with the goal of integrating into the 1st Infantry Battalion as an efficient military unit,” Lieutenant Colonel Ru Streatfeild, commander of NATO Battlegroup Estonia, said.
The exercises are being conducted amid ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine. Estonia joined NATO in 2004, along with its Baltic neighbours Latvia and Lithuania. They share a border of 300 km (over 186 mi) with Russia.
Since the start of the conflict, NATO has significantly boosted its contingent in Eastern Europe, with the number of the bloc’s troops in the region – stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea – now reaching some 40,000.
Russia attacked its neighbor in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. These protocols, which were mediated by France and Germany, had been created to regulate the state of these regions in the Ukrainian government.
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Russia now demands that Ukraine declare itself neutral and vows to not join NATO’s military bloc. Kiev claims that the Russian invasion was unprovoked. It also denies any plans to take the republics with force.