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    A tank with an US flag takes part in a military parade to celebrate 97 years since first achieving independence in 1918 on February 24, 2015 in Narva, Estonia

    More Than Half of Estonia's Russian Population Against NATO Bases

    © AFP 2019 / RAIGO PAJULA
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    Estonian residents were recently polled by the country's defense ministry to determine their opinion on the presence of NATO forces in the country; while more than half of the ethnic Russians contacted disapprove of the presence of NATO forces in Estonia, the overwhelming majority of Estonians support the troops.

    A recent opinion poll initiated by the Estonian Defense Ministry has revealed that more than half of Russian-speaking respondents are against the presence of NATO forces in Estonia, while the overwhelming majority of Estonians said "yes" to it, according to the Russian version of the website of Estonian Public Broadcasting.

    The survey came as Estonian and US troops are holding joint tank drills near the Estonian town of Tapa, an event that was touted by Commander-in-Chief of Estonian Defense Forces Riho Terras.

    He said that he was "very happy" about the drills, which involved US-made Abrams tanks. Terras voiced his hope that "someday the Estonian government will decide that the country needs its own tanks."

    However, the country's Russian-speaking population does not share his optimism. According to the survey, only 24 percent of the Russian-speaking population in Estonia support the establishment of permanent NATO bases in the country, which is backed by 88 percent of Estonian respondents.

    The deployment of NATO troops in Estonia is opposed by eight percent of Estonians and 64 percent of Russians, who insist that there is no outside threat to the country's security.

    Among those who say "no" to the presence of NATO forces is media expert Rodion Denisov.

    "I am of the opinion that the state must defend itself. It would be naive to believe that someone would come one day and provide protection. I do not support the presence of foreign military bases on the territory of my country, Estonia. At the same time, I think that the drills can be carried out," Denisov was quoted by Estonian Public Broadcasting's website as saying.

    US Abrams tanks arrived for military exercises in Estonia in March 2015, more than ten years after the country entered NATO.

    Ethnic Russians constituted approximately 25.5% of Estonia's population as of January 1, 2010, according to a state website. They predominate in the country's northeastern county of Ida Virumaa as well as in Lasnamäe, Tallinn's most populous residential district.

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