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Baltic States: NATO

Volume 639: debated on Monday 23 April 2018

Don’t worry, Mr Speaker; I will endeavour to speak very slowly, for a change, and maybe at length.

We have a strong and enduring defence relationship with our allies in the Baltic states. Since April last year, UK forces have been deployed in Estonia as part of NATO’s enhanced forward presence. The UK acts as the framework station in Estonia, leading a defensive but combat-capable multinational battlegroup to deter aggression. The UK also contributes to the US-led enhanced forward presence battlegroup in Poland.

This might be an opportunity to give a lecture on Estonian, Lithuanian and Polish relations with the UK—while keeping you happy in your Chair, Mr Speaker. In the meantime, I very much welcome what the Secretary of State has said about the increased support to the Baltic states. Will the Minister also look at the possibility of giving training and support to members of the Baltic states’ armed forces in the UK? He will be aware that a recent parliamentary question revealed the fact that no one from Lithuania, Latvia or Poland had attended the MOD’s highest profile UK-based courses. Is that not something that we should try to rectify?

I would be delighted to look at that. Indeed, I am sure that the House will be delighted to know that the one request I received from just about every nation when I was travelling in east Africa last week was for further places on UK training courses—our Royal College of Defence Studies, our advanced command and staff course, our higher command and staff course, or even at Sandhurst. Places on such courses are incredibly valued by overseas nations. Unfortunately, demand exceeds supply, but I will look carefully at what more we can do to support our Baltic colleagues.