France will deploy some 300 troops to Estonia in a rotation within the multinational NATO contingent stationed at the Tapa Army Base for one year, the French embassy in Tallinn said on Friday.
The French contingent served two eight-month missions in Estonia in 2017 and 2019. For this mission, Paris will double the number of Leclerc tanks to 12 vehicles, the embassy said.
“The extension of the mission and the doubling of the number of tanks demonstrates France’s desire to get involved in the protection of its close Allies. The presence of French soldiers in Estonia is all the more meaningful as we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our countries,” French Ambassador to Estonia Eric Lamouroux was quoted as saying.
Lamouroux recalled the “ambitious” declaration of the strategic partnership that French President Emmanuel Macron and then-Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas signed at the end of last year, as well as conveyed Paris’ appreciation of Tallinn’s contribution to counter-terrorism operations in Sahel.
Estonian Defense Minister Kalle Laanet, in turn, said that the bilateral security cooperation has made France one of Estonia’s main allies. Pointing to France’s possession of nuclear weapons, the Estonian minister described the French presence in the Baltic region as a “serious deterrent.”
The embassy also noted that the French military would comply with coronavirus-related measures, including mandatory self-isolation.
NATO troops have been present in Estonia since April 2017. The UK-led 1,200-strong contingent also includes forces of France, Belgium, Denmark and Iceland, which replace each other in the order of rotation.
The French military will now come to replace the Danish counterparts, who left Tapa in early January.