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NATO Assurance Measures: Estonia and Poland

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th January 2017.

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Photo of Daniel Kawczynski Daniel Kawczynski Conservative, Shrewsbury and Atcham 12:00 am, 30th January 2017

What deployments the UK is making as part of NATO’s assurance measures in Estonia and Poland.

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

The UK has a leading role in NATO’s enhanced forward presence. In Estonia, we are providing the framework battalion of around 800 military personnel, which is based around 5th Battalion the Rifles, an armoured infantry unit from Bulford that is equipped with Warrior armoured fighting vehicles. The battle group will also have Challenger 2 tanks from the Queen’s Royal Hussars and tactical unmanned aerial vehicles.

Photo of Daniel Kawczynski Daniel Kawczynski Conservative, Shrewsbury and Atcham

Our Polish partners and allies will obviously appreciate such rotational deployments, but the Minister will know that they are keen to have a permanent NATO base east of Warsaw. Can he envisage that happening during the course of this Parliament?

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I had the pleasure of meeting my Polish counterpart only the other week. Not only did we discuss the deployment of 150 personnel and Jackal vehicles from the Light Dragoons, but I congratulated them on their spending 2% of GDP on defence. I heard what they said about NATO, but that is a matter for our NATO colleagues.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

I learned a great deal about NATO on my very first visit to the United States, when I became a green card holder, so I am particularly worried about what is happening with immigration in the US. In the 1960s, NATO was the bedrock of our defence in Europe; it still is today. We need a stronger NATO and must convert President Trump into a great, positive supporter of the defence of Europe.

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I learned an awful lot about NATO when I was in uniform with the British Army of the Rhine back in the ’70s and ’80s. Our American allies were with us then, and they are with us today. We need to ensure that America is 100% behind NATO—that commitment has gone through—and the Labour party leadership should be, too.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

In relation to both these deployments, I welcome President Trump’s wholehearted support for NATO, as well as the transfer of command of the NATO response land corps and the very high readiness joint task force to the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps in Gloucester and the 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade respectively. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is great testament to the UK’s role in NATO, and will he send this House’s best wishes to the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps and the 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade?

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I could not agree more with my colleague. One thing that I know as a former serviceman is that our armed forces need to know that the country is behind them. I hope that the entire House will support our troops as they deploy to eastern Europe.