Estonia declared independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. When the last Soviet troops finally withdrew in 1994, Estonia was once again free to determine her own destiny. Diplomatic and economic ties with the West were strengthened over the years, culminating in Estonia’s accession into the EU and NATO in 2004. Since then, the US and Estonia have remained strong allies and partners.
Recently, in response to regional threats, the Estonian government requested a permanent NATO presence in their country. Most Estonians see the arrival of the US military as a good thing. However, presence of American and NATO troops has not been viewed as positively by Estonia’s ethnic-Russia population. One US Army Civil Affairs team is working alongside the US Embassy and Estonian defense forces to positively engage the ethnic-Russian communities along the eastern border, with the goal of building better relationships and demonstrating their true commitment to all Estonians, regardless of ethnicity.
The US Army Civil Affairs team working in Estonia traveled to Sillamäe, a town in the northeastern part of the country, to understand the city’s needs and how to best engage the ethnic-Russian population in the region. During their visit, they identified a need for outdoor gym equipment that the community, especially the youth, could use. Youth activities are limited in the town, but there is a strong fitness culture there. The team reached out to SoA and explained that providing the new equipment would greatly improve the functionality of the park space and would be a visible remainder to the community of the US and Estonian governments’ commitment to them. It would also strengthen their relationship with the local government.
The US Army Civil Affairs team and Public Affairs Office, after talking to local officials, determined that sponsoring a 5K race on the same day as the equipment handover ceremony would greatly improve the event. Inviting US and Estonian soldiers to run in the race alongside members of the community will provide an incredible opportunity for them interact in positive way. The US Army Band is even going to perform!
With your support, Spirit of America will provide the outdoor gym equipment for the park and the race day t-shirts and refreshments that are need for the opening ceremony this spring.