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.
According to 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 laundering money.
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 digital issues.
The number of stateless residents in Estonia has decreased over the past decade from about 125,000 to about 80,000.