In Ukraine, Vladimir Putin must fail – and be seen to fail
President Vladimir Putin’s brutal assault on Ukraine has naturally focused a ention on Nato’s eastern ank and particularly the Baltic states. As the British ambassador to Estonia, the embassy team and I have been responding to the crisis in three main ways. We are working with our Estonian allies to support Ukraine. e extent of the UK’s support to Ukraine is now well known, with both longterm training and equipping over recent years, and the swi provision of additional defensive weapons since the Russian invasion.
Estonia has also been quick to respond, and provided equipment worth more than €220m (about £185m); a signi cant amount for a country of its size. e UK and Estonia have worked to co-ordinate international contributions, and both countries will continue that support. Personally, I will continue to play an active part in this collegiate international e ort, along with the British embassy team here in Tallinn.
ere will be an increase in pressure on Vladimir Putin through sanctions and other measures designed to isolate Russia internationally and encourage the end of the aggression. e UK and Estonia have been at the forefront of this e ort, working with allies and pushing for the toughest measures possible.
Putin cannot claim to be surprised by this; Prime Minister Kaja Kallas of Estonia warned that aggression against Ukraine would bring “the mother of all sanctions”.
And we will increase the Nato presence here to deter Russian aggression against Estonia and Nato’s whole eastern ank. e UK has been the leading member of Nato’s “enhanced Forward Presence” in Estonia since 2017. is has included leading a ba legroup of around 1,000 personnel with tanks, artillery and other equipment.
I knew when I was applying for this role that working closely on defence and security issues would be an important part of the job; in these current circumstances, that has become even more crucial.
In response to Russia’s a ack on Ukraine, we have temporarily doubled our Nato military presence here and stepped up patrols of Baltic airspace. Estonia has signi cantly boosted its own defence spending; other allies including France and Denmark have increased their support, and we are working with the Estonians on plans to strengthen Nato’s presence in the longer term.
My own role, and that of the British embassy in Tallinn, is to support our military, maximise the impact of our support, and shape how we develop this.
The extent of highlevel UK engagement with Estonia in recent weeks has been remarkable. Since November the embassy team has supported visits by the UK’s Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary, Defence Secretary, minister for the armed forces, and the Chief of the Defence Sta . e UK co-ordinates with Estonia through both Nato and the Joint Expeditionary Force (an agile group combining the UK, the Netherlands and all eight Nordic and Baltic nations).
When the Foreign Secretary speaks of “working with fellow freedom-loving democracies to tighten the vice around Putin’s war machine”, Estonia and our other Nato and Joint Expeditionary Force allies are exactly who she has in mind.
Crucially, the UK and Estonia have long shared a similar assessment of the threat posed by Russia, and we agree that, in Ukraine, Putin must fail and be seen to fail. Some of my Estonian colleagues in the embassy, and many of my friends here, remember what it was like living under Russian occupation. e current situation is of course worrying to them and to all of us who call Estonia home.
But Estonia and other eastern ank countries are very di erent from Ukraine: they bene t from, and contribute to, Nato’s Article 5 guarantee, which holds that an a ack on one Nato ally is treated as an a ack on them all. Our ministers have made very clear that our commitment is iron-clad. I am proud to be working alongside my colleagues to keep the UK, Estonia, and our other allies safe.
“We will increase the Nato presence here to deter Russian aggression against Estonia”