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NATO member Estonia is 'seriously' discussing sending troops to fill non-combat roles in Ukraine, security advisor says

Matthew Loh   

NATO member Estonia is 'seriously' discussing sending troops to fill non-combat roles in Ukraine, security advisor says
  • An Estonian official told Breaking Defense that his government is "seriously" discussing putting troops in Ukraine.
  • Those soldiers would be put away from the frontlines and relieve Ukrainian troops of non-combat roles, he said.

Estonia has been "seriously" discussing sending troops to Ukraine in roles positioned away from the front lines, per a national security official.

Madis Roll, national security advisor to Estonia's president, told military news outlet Breaking Defense that his country's leaders were assessing the viability of sending Estonian soldiers to "rear" roles that wouldn't see direct combat in Ukraine.

Such a move would help relieve Ukraine's manpower crunch and allow it to send more soldiers to the front lines.

And while Estonia, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization country, prefers to act together with the alliance's major members, it's also not closed to the idea of jumping in with a smaller group of allies, Roll said.

"Discussions are ongoing," Roll told Breaking Defense. "We should be looking at all the possibilities. We shouldn't have our minds restricted as to what we can do."

Breaking Defense reported that Roll made these comments on Friday, just days after the country's defense chief, Gen. Martin Herem, told the outlet that Estonia had internally talked about sending troops to Ukraine.

But there hadn't been a "serious discussion" due to domestic political concerns, Herem told the military news site on May 9.

Estonia is one of the geographically closest NATO members to Russia, with an eastern border shared with the Russian regions Pskov and Leningrad. Its military relies largely on reservist units, with about 4,200 permanent staff and 38,000 reserve troops ready for wartime operations.

Additional reserves bring the total number of Estonians with military training to around 230,000 of its 1.3 million population, per the official defense forces website.

More NATO members are thinking about troops in Ukraine

Tallinn is now joining a growing chorus of alliance members touting the possibility of backing Ukraine's forces with troops, with French President Emmanuel Macron drawing Moscow's ire for repeatedly floating such a strategy.

The Baltic States are following suit. Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė told The Financial Times on May 8 that she had the authority from parliament to deploy troops to Ukraine for training, but that Kyiv had not put forward such a request yet.

NATO needs the consensus of its members to send troops as an alliance to a war zone, but individual states may deploy their own forces as they see fit.

Russia, meanwhile, has said that any significant NATO troop presence in Ukraine would be seen as a major escalation, regularly bringing up the threat of nuclear war.

But its gains in Ukraine, where Kyiv for months suffered from ammunition undersupply and now faces a widening manpower disadvantage, have spooked Western Europe.

States bordering Russia's western flank, like Finland and Estonia, are cautioning that a Ukrainian defeat means they may soon be the next targets of Russian aggression.

Estonia has given Ukraine about $640 million worth of military, humanitarian, and financial aid, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy's aid tracker.

That's about 1.6% of its total GDP, more than any other nation that has supplied Ukraine with aid. The latest tranche of US aid to Kyiv, of $61 billion, is worth around 0.2% of American GDP.


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