Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson visited British troops stationed in Estonia in a show of strength against Vladimir Putin weeks after the poisoning of a Russian spy in Salisbury strained relations between Britain and Russia.
Mr Williamson will also meet with Estonian president Kersti Kalijulaid, Prime Minister Juri Ratas as well as Defence Minister Juri Luik.
He addressed the UK-led NATO Enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup at the military base in Tapa on Sunday in his first stop during his two-day visit to the Baltic state.
The UK-led NATO mission, consisting of a 1,200 troops of mostly British and French personnel, is stationed in the tiny county – which shares around 180 miles of border with Russia.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson visited British troops stationed in Estonia in a show of strength against Vladimir Putin
Mr Williamson addressed the UK-led NATO Enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup at the military base in Tapa on Sunday
Moscow has carried out a number of military exercises on its side of the border, including one last year that reportedly involved around 100,000 troops.
The aggression led to thousands of Estonians joining the Estonian Defence League – the civilian army that aims to stop invasions.
However, unlike Ukraine, Estonia is part of NATO and so, an attack on Estonia would be considered an attack on every member of NATO.
‘Russia’s becoming an ever-greater threat and what we are seeing right across the eastern front in countries such as the Ukraine and Estonia is an increasingly aggressive stance,’ he told ITV earlier this month.
‘Russia’s changing the way they actually fight and raise the level of conflict.’
He indicated that the UK would change the way it dealt with the increasing threat from Russia.
‘Russia’s being assertive, Russia’s being more aggressive, and we have to change the way that we deal with it because we can’t be in a situation in these areas of conflict where we are being pushed around by another nation,’ he said.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson addresses UK troops of the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence battle group at the military base in Tapa
The UK-led NATO mission, consisting of a 1,200 troops of mostly British and French personnel, is stationed in the tiny county
Mr Williamson’s visit comes just three weeks after Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old were found collapsed on a bench in Salisbury
Mr Williamson’s visit comes just three weeks after Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter were found collapsed on a bench in Salisbury.
They are both in a coma after being poisoned with a nerve agent on March 4– identified as the Soviet-made ‘Novichok’ by the government.
Moscow denies any involvement in the attack on the Skripals and has accused Britain of orchestrating a campaign against it.
The Kremlin also hit back at Mr Williamson after he blasted Russia in the wake of the Salisbury incident.
‘Frankly, Russia should go away and shut up,’ Mr Williamson said last week.
It prompted Moscow to hit back at Mr Williamson by calling him a ‘market wench’ and ‘fishwife’.
Mr Williamson will also meet with Estonian president Kersti Kalijulaid, Prime Minister Juri Ratas as well as Defence Minister Juri Luik
Gavin Williamson looks at weapons during a visit to the military base in Tapa, Estonia
‘Russia’s becoming an ever-greater threat and what we are seeing right across the eastern front in countries such as the Ukraine and Estonia,’ Mr Williamson has previously said
British troops are pictured during the visit from Gavin Williamson to the NATO battlegroup
Britain and Russia have expelled 23 of each other’s diplomats in tit-for-tat exchanges, while Moscow has also shut down the operations of the British Council cultural organisation in its territory.
On Saturday, the BBC reported that Skripal had written to Putin several years ago asking for a pardon for selling secrets to British intelligence.
On Sunday, the EU’s diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini held crisis talks with the bloc’s ambassador to Moscow after he was recalled over the poisoning of the Skripals.
EU leaders summoned envoy Markus Ederer back to Brussels for consultations as international pressure builds on Moscow over the attempted assassination.
At a summit on Friday, the bloc unanimously backed Britain’s assessment that the Kremlin was to blame for the incident – the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War 2.
The core of the battlegroup has been made up of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Welsh of the British Army since October
Gavin Williamson is shown around the base during his visit to the British-led NATO Enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup
In a brief statement on Sunday, Mogherini’s office said she had held ‘consultations with the Head of European Union Delegation in the Russian Federation’.
No further details were given beyond saying Ederer would ‘continue institutional consultations in the coming days’.
A number of European countries are expected to take further steps to punish Moscow on Monday, with the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Denmark and Ireland considering expelling Russian diplomats.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday that further coordinated actions were ‘necessary’ to respond to the attack, while French officials have said Paris too was ready to act.
Mr Williamson speaks to troops stationed in the tiny Baltic state that shares some 180 miles of border with Russia