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Estonian Defence Forces joined the European Union’s defensive maritime security operation Aspides

As of Friday, June 14th, the Estonian Defence Forces is represented in the European Union’s Naval Force Operation Aspides, which purpose is to safeguard maritime security and civilian shipping in the Red Sea from attacks and threats posed by Houthi rebels.

Since the end of 2023, the maritime security situation in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, part of the Indian Ocean and the maritime areas along the Gulf States has significantly deteriorated due to attacks by Houthi rebels on Merchant and commercial vessels sailing in the region. The deterioration of maritime security in the Red Sea has disrupted international shipping and the geopolitical situation in the region, which negatively affects both the European Union and the wider international community.

In order to restore maritime safety and freedom of navigation, The European Union’s Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) Operation Aspides EU was launched on February 19, 2024, which is led by Greece. The operational area covers the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf and part of the northwestern Indian Ocean.

Estonia contributes to the operation from June this year with one soldier. According to the initial plans, the expected duration of the mandate is one year, until spring of 2025. If necessary, it is possible to increase the contribution of the Estonian Defence Forces depending on upcoming developments and the Allies’ need for additional support.

The mandate for operation Aspides includes protecting vessels traveling in the region from attacks, escorting ships throughout the operation area, and raising maritime situational awareness in the region. All activity in the operational area is strictly defensive in nature, i.e. it does not involve military activities, including attacks on land targets.

The purpose of Estonia’s participation is to contribute in the implementation of the common security and defense policy of the European Union and to strenghten cooperation with the strategic allies of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the southern wing, while enabling the participation of the Estonian military personnel in a naval operation to gain specific professional experience in an International operational environment with allied units.

Operation Aspides headquarters is in Larissa, Greece. Allied forces in the operational area use both naval vessels and air assets. In addition to Greece, various European countries, including the Netherlands, France, Italy, Germany and others, contribute to the operation with their naval vessels and other abilities.

Operation EUNAVFOR Aspides has been initiated on the basis of Articles 42 and 431 of the Treaty on European Union. The operation is based on the right of self-defense under Article 51 of the United Nations Organization and is aligned with United Nation’s Resolution 2722, which requires the Houthi rebels to cease attacks and recognizes the right of self-defense against such attacks in accordance with international law.

The participation of the Estonian Defence Forces in international military operations offers important knowledge and experience for Estonian soldiers with opportunities to test themselves in an operational environment, increasing the professionalism of the Defence Forces, strengthening relations and cooperation with Allies.

The Estonian Defence Forces have been participating in international foreign military operations for 30 years.

Illustrative photo by EUNAVFOR, 2024.

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