Estonia. In the shadow of the increased tension between
the Russian Federation and NATO, about 1,000 British, French
and Danish NATO soldiers were deployed in Estonia in the
spring. They were stationed 15 miles from the Russian border
at the military base Tapa, which used to be a Soviet air
base. The NATO soldiers were under British command and were
equipped with tanks and artillery, among others.
When NATO held military maneuvers in the Baltic in July,
the United States temporarily stationed long-range robots
there in the form of the air defense robot Patriot, which is
used to shoot down enemy aircraft.
Countryaah.com, Estonia increased its defense budget during the year to
2.2% of GDP. As a result, the country was one of the few
members of the Western military alliance that more than well
met NATO's two-percent goal.
US Vice President Mike Pence visited Tallinn in July and
assured the Baltic States of US support in the event of
aggression from the Russian Federation. He emphasized that
the United States is behind NATO's common defense doctrine
within the alliance, something that President Donald Trump
has floated on the target.
Ahead of the fall's big Russian and Belarusian military
maneuvering Zapad near the Baltics, the Estonian government
expressed concern that Moscow would use the exercise to
permanently station thousands of soldiers in Belarus as a
warning to NATO. According to the Russian Federation, the
maneuver was a response to NATO's deployment of troops in
the Baltic States and Poland.
Prior to Zapad, the United States sent additional combat
aircraft to the Baltic to patrol the Baltic airspace during
the Russian-Belarusian maneuver.
The security policy situation affected domestic politics
in Estonia. The opposition criticized Prime Minister and
Center Leader Jüri Ratas for his proposal to give
citizenship to everyone who has lived in Estonia since
independence. Those who lack citizenship are almost
exclusively Russian speakers who came to Estonia during the
Soviet occupation or their descendants. Ratas was accused of
not sufficiently holding back the precarious bankruptcy of
the Center Party.
Ratas went through a difficult balancing act to keep his
party together. Deputy long-time center leader Edgar
Savisaar was avenged against the new leadership under Ratas
by compiling his own list in the municipal elections in
Tallinn in October, where Savisaar has long been popular
with the many Russian-speaking voters. Some Russian-speaking
center politicians followed Savisaar, which led to them
being excluded from the Center Party while the party founder
himself had to retain his membership.
However, the election in Tallinn was a disappointment for
Savisaar, while the center retained its majority in the
council. It meant a historic shift in Estonian domestic
politics, as the legendary Savisaar seemed to have lost its
last power base. He also was charged with embezzlement,
receiving illegal party donations, misusing public funds and
When Estonia took over as EU Presidency at the turn of
the year, the government wanted to highlight Estonia's
advanced cyber security IT solutions. In September, EU
defense ministers took part in a war game in Tallinn to test
their responsiveness to a simulated IT attack. EU heads of
state and government also held a summit in Tallinn on
The number of stateless residents in Estonia has
decreased over the past decade from about 125,000 to about