TALLINN, Estonia – Estonia has marked its 99th anniversary of its declaration of independence with more than 1,000 troops from eight NATO nations parading and presenting military hardware on Friday, including two U.S. Abrams tanks that were displayed to the public for the first time.
Fighter jets from the alliance's Baltic air policing mission roared over the flag-waving crowd that included President Kersti Kaljulaid and a U.S. Air Force band.
NATO military forces were deployed into countries bordering Russia after Moscow's aggression in Ukraine in response to fears that other ex-Soviet republics — including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — could be next.
On Friday, dozens of German army tanks arrived by train in Lithuania as part of the alliance's deployment. Some 1,200 troops part of NATO's battle group have in the past been deployed to the central Lithuanian military base of Rukla.
Estonia declared its independence from Russia on Feb. 24, 1918, but the small country of 1.3 million was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940, and — albeit with Nazi German occupation from 1941-44 — remained part of the USSR until 1991.