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04.08.2017  14:05

THE BALTICS

Baltic heads of states discussed security and cooperation with U.S. Vice President
On 31 August the presidents of the Baltic States met with United States Vice President Mike Pence in Tallinn to address defence and energy matters. In his speech, Pence strongly pledged America’s commitment to protecting NATO allies against attacks, including the Baltic States, which have anxiously watched a growing Russian military presence in the region, by referring to Article 5. Speaking about NATO in a broader context, the Vice President said that the biggest danger is Russian aggression and a strong and united NATO is more necessary today than at any point since the collapse of communism a quarter of a century ago.
During his two-day visit to Estonia, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, gave an interview in which he emphasized that the United States stands with its allies: “President Trump sent me to Eastern Europe with a very simple message -- that means that ‘America First’ does not mean ‘America Alone’.” He further elaborated that the United States has no small allies and reaffirmed that an attack against a NATO member state is an attack against all others. Pence further commended Estonia for being one of the five member states which meets the criteria of contributing 2 percent of their GDP to defence and added that Latvia and Lithuania are expected to reach the same level by 2018.
The Latvian President, Raimonds Vejonis, said following a meeting with U.S. Vice President that they discussed ways to deepen cooperation for the protection of Baltic airspace and prevention of hybrid threats. In addition, Vejonis welcomed the United States’ readiness to begin liquefied gas exports to the Baltic and Central European countries, which would improve the region’s energy security and diversify gas supplies.  The Estonian Prime Minister, Juri Ratas, said that the United States is indispensable to ensuring the security of Estonia and Europe and that “The decision of the U.S. administration to increase the financing of the European Reassurance Initiative by 1.4 billion dollars is remarkable.” Meanwhile, Lithuanian President, Dalia Grybauskaitė underscored that a firm stance of the U.S. demonstrated in relation to an unsafe Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant under construction near the border with NATO as it may be used as unconventional weapon.  She also emphasized a need of a more rapid decision-making in the Alliance and preparation of specific measures to prevent possible military isolation of the Baltic states.

 

THE BALTICS AND RUSSIA

Lithuania and Latvia also invited to observe Russia-Belarus military exercise Zapad
On 28 July Lithuania received an invitation from the Belarusian Defence Ministry to all accredited foreign defence attaches to take part in the observation program of the joint Belarusian-Russian strategic exercise Zapad 2017. On 2 August, the Latvian Defence Ministry also received an invitation from Belarus to send two military observers to the Zapad military exercise. Estonia has already received invitations to observe Zapad drills. Lithuanian Defence Ministry commented positively on the invitation highlighting that such openness is very important for neighbouring countries.

NATO aircrafts scrambled once from Lithuania last week over Russian military aircraft
NATO military aircrafts serving in the Baltic air-policing mission were last week scrambled once from Lithuania to intercept a Russian warplane flying above the Baltic Sea. According to the Lithuanian Defence Ministry, the Allied aircrafts were scrambled on 25 August over An-26 aircraft flying from mainland Russia to the Kaliningrad region with its on-board transponder on and maintained contact with flight controllers, however, it had not filed a flight plan. The NATO air-policing mission is conducted from Lithuania and Estonia.

Spanish aircrafts violating Finnish air space were accompanying Russian aircraft
On 1 August, Finnish authorities said that two Spanish F-18 Hornets involved in NATO’s air policing mission in the Baltics may have entered the Finnish air space without permission on Tuesday morning and spent a few minutes within the air space. NATO stated that the two Spanish F-18 Hornets which violated the Finnish air space on Tuesday entered the air space by mistake when accompanying three Russian aircraft and the Finnish Border Guard on Wednesday said that NATO’s version of the matter seems correct. The border officials said that NATO presented an explanation of the matter, in which the alliance admitted that the two aircraft entered the Finnish air space by mistake when accompanying three Russian aircraft, which were flying close to the Estonian air space.

Several Russian military aircrafts detected near Latvian border
On 3 August, the NATO aircraft policing Baltic airspace spotted two Russian antisubmarine aircraft Il-38 flying over the Baltic Sea near Latvia’s territorial waters. Also, on 2 August, the NATO aircraft detected two Tu-95 bombers close to the Latvian border. On 1 August, a number of Russian military aircraft were detected flying over the Baltic Sea near Latvian waters. The Russian warplanes approaching the Latvian boarder included military aircraft Mig-31 and Su-27, a Su-34 bomber and an An-26 military transport aircraft.

 

LITHUANIA

Lithuanian president: US to double number of military aircrafts during Zapad drills
On 31 July, the Lithuanian President, Dalia Grybauskaitė, stated that The United States will double the number of air-policing military aircrafts in Lithuania during the large-scale Russian-Belarusian military exercises Zapad 2017 this fall. According to Grybauskaitė, more US troops and equipment will be stationed in Lithuania during the training: “The increased presence of the military, doubling of the air-policing and more US troops, equipment and vessels here during the Zapad training indicates special attention to our region”. The United States, which is due to take over the mission in Siauliai, northern Lithuania, at the beginning of September, will bring eight aircrafts.

Lithuania’s Defence Minister appoints directors of defence, capacities and weaponry
Lithuania’s Defence Minister, Raimundas Karoblis, has appointed a new defence policy director and the director general for capabilities and munitions as of the 2 August. Robertas Sapronas took post as the ministry’s defence policy director, replacing Vaidotas Urbelis who has been appointed as defence adviser at the Embassy to the United States, the ministry said on 3 August. Before the appointment, Sapronas participated in the European Union’s (EU) advisory mission to Moldova. Functions of the ministry’s defence policy director include key issues of international cooperation and defence policy, representing the ministry at international meetings. Colonel Valdas Siauciulis has been put in charge of the ministry’s capabilities and munitions, long-term military capabilities, planning of weaponry and defence system, military equipment and gear. He replaced Colonel Darius Uzkuraitis in the position after he was assigned to the NATO Allied Joint Force Command (JFC) Brunssum, the Netherlands. Up until now, Siauciulis served as Lithuania’s defence attaché to the United Kingdom.

LATVIA

Murniece stresses significance of U.S. support to Baltic region’s security
On 1 August, Parliament Speaker Inara Murniece (National Alliance) said during a meeting with a delegation led by U.S. Congressman Joe Wilson that the United States is Latvia’s strategic partner and its continued support to the Baltic region’s security is crucial. Latvia highly values the U.S.’ strong and unwavering support to Latvia’s security, Murniece told the congressional delegation, praising the U.S. for reaffirming its commitment to Article 5 of NATO. She also emphasized the importance of the continued presence of rotating U.S. forces in the region. It is also equally important to counter the Kremlin’s information war that undermines democratic values, the Parliament speaker said.

Russian military vessel seen near Latvian waters again
On 29 July, the National Armed Forces detected yet another Russian military vessel near Latvian waters. According to information provided by the Latvian military, the Kilektor, a Sura-class mooring/buoy tender, was spotted in Latvia’s exclusive economic zone, three nautical miles from Latvian territorial waters.

Defence Ministry Calls Article in Dutch Media a “Classic Provocation”
On 28 July, Latvia’s Defence Ministry accused an Italian journalist of distributing misleading information in an article published by the Dutch news portal The Correspondent that suggested the Baltic States are training child soldiers to prepare for war with Russia. The photos by journalist Tomaso Clavarino depict members of the Jaunsardze – the Latvian voluntary youth guard – in training exercises. In his article, however, Clavarino wrote that he “travelled through the Baltics and saw how 13-year-old girls, members of biker gangs, and religion teachers meet in paramilitary groups,” which he portrayed as an effort to instil militant nationalism from a young age.  MOD State Secretary Jānis Garisons called Clavarino’s story “biased misleading information that attempts to undermine the Jaunsardze’s prestige and, via using children in information operations, discredit the Baltic States.” The MOD remarked that it is a classic provocation and an information operation in which the journalist manipulates with partially realistic facts, and also uses the image of children to try to influence the minds and hearts of people.

ESTONIA

Lt. Col. Meelis Sarapuu becomes head of Estonian military police
As of 1 August the Estonian Military Police will be headed by Lt. Col. Meelis Sarapuu, who took over the position from Col. Eduard Kikas. Lt. Col. Sarapuu began his service with the defence forces in 1996 and has served in different positions with the Military Police since 2000. He assumed the position of deputy head of the Military Police in 2009.
Maj. Meelis Joemaa becomes head of Battle School of Estonian National Defence College
As of August 1 the Battle School of the Estonian National Defence College will be headed by Maj. Meelis Joemaa, who took over the position from Lt. Col. Madis Nomme. Joemaa carried out his conscript service as part of the Kalev infantry battalion in 1992 and began active service in 1997. He has graduated from the Battle School and both the first and second course of the Higher Military School. Joemaa passed a senior staff officers course at the Baltic Defence College in 2014 and 2015. He has participated in foreign missions in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. The Battle School of the Estonian National Defence College trains senior non-commissioned officers and reserve officers.

 

Newsletter was prepared by Anders Faarup Nielsen (intern, Tallinn), Jakob Greve Kromann (intern, Riga), Jacob Dalsgaard Pedersen and Leah Elizabeth Winther Hamborg (interns, Vilnius)