NATO forces are “100 percent ready” to defend Europe should Putin decide to invade, a British military commander told the PA news agency.
Lt. Col. Ru Streatfeild, who heads the organization’s battle group in Estonia, said British troops were “thrilled” and “immensely proud” to help strengthen the country’s eastern border with Russia.
Troops from Britain’s 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, which he commands and which was recently deployed to the Baltics, took part in a large-scale exercise Thursday at the Tapa military base, just 70 miles from the Russian border.
Exercise Bold Dragon involved around 2,300 soldiers from British, French, Danish and Estonian ranks using tanks including the British Challenger 2 tanks, armored infantry, engineers, artillery and logistics.
In the process, Allied forces squared off against the Estonians in mud, snow and swampy conditions, further honing NATO’s wartime skills and tactics and ensuring smooth cooperation.
During the exercise, Lt. Col. Streatfeild said the war in Ukraine had given his soldiers “razor sharp focus.”
“We are literally under the command of NATO right now. There are NATO plans and whatever orders we are given within a NATO structure, we will carry them out,” he said.
When asked if NATO troops were prepared in the event of a Russian invasion, he said: “100 percent. There is boasting. They’re on their game and they’re ready.
“It’s not like people are happy about it. But soldiers want a job. They want to put their craft into practice.
“That’s why they join the army.”
He added: “Our soldiers are very proud to be here. It’s a great privilege. But it is also a big responsibility.”
He said NATO troops are there not just to protect the security of the eastern flank, but also “the freedoms we often take for granted.”
“It’s those western liberal values; it’s freedom of speech, it’s the ability to buy your own house or car, all those Western norms, they’re backed by security, and that’s what NATO is for.”
The battle group commander said he “absolutely” knew how he would face a Russian attack, adding: “We’re getting to know this terrain really well.
“And for the Estonians, this is their territory. They have defended it before and will defend it again.”
There are currently around 2,000 NATO troops in Estonia, including the Royal Danish Army Viking Company and the French 7th Alpine Hunter Battalion.
On Wednesday, Estonian officials urged NATO member states to double the number of troops in the country to stop Russia from advancing further into Europe.
19-year-old Wakefield gunner Joe Watson said he wasn’t worried about the prospect of war.
“It’s not really any of my business. We joined the army for a reason. You always have to be prepared for that,” he said.
“And as a shooter, you don’t really think about it. You just do your job and try to do it well.
“Everyone understands that if we leave, it will be big.
“But we’re focused on defending Estonia. That’s what it is.”
He added: “I’m proud to be here. I think many Estonians are very grateful that many of the British Army are here, especially the armored units. And that makes you pretty proud to be in this job.
“I have a fairly small family, they manage quite well. My father is obviously proud. They’re all pretty proud of being fair.”
Lance Corporal Rhydian Stephens, from Ammanford in Carmarthenshire, who is a medic attached to the Royal Welsh’s B Company, said: “We heard the news about the war when we were doing training exercises in Germany and obviously people were excited. It’s what we joined the army to do.
“We joined the army to help.
“But for now, we’re just looking at what’s happening in the news at the moment and doing what we need to do here in Estonia first.”
https://www.independent.ie/news/nato-forces-100pc-ready-to-defend-europes-borders-if-russia-invades-41554992.html NATO forces ‘100pc ready’ to defend Europe’s borders if Russia invades