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18.08.2017  10:24

THE BALTICS AND RUSSIA

NATO military aircraft in Baltics intercept over 20 Russian aircraft last week
NATO military aircraft conducting the Alliance’s air-policing mission from Lithuania and Estonia were last week scrambled eight times to identify and escort Russian military aircraft in international airspace over the Baltic Sea, intercepting a total of 21 Russian aircraft. The NATO military aircraft also identified several transport and passenger planes over the Baltic Sea. Most of the Russian aircraft had their automatic transponders switched off. The biggest number of scrambles took place last Thursday, when the Alliance’s aircraft took off three times in total and intercepted ten aircraft.

Russian warships spotted near Latvian border
On 17 August, a Russian naval vessel was detected near Latvian waters. The Russian corvette Serpukhov 563 was seen in Latvia’s exclusive economic zone six nautical miles from Latvia’s territorial waters. On 15 August, a Russian military vessel was also detected near Latvian borders.

THE BALTICS AND EXERCISE

Russia to present Zapad exercise to defence attachés at separate event
As of 16 August, Estonia has received no invitation from Russia to observe the Zapad large scale military exercise to be held by Russia and Belarus in September, but the Russian authorities will present the exercise to the defence attaches accredited to other countries’ diplomatic missions in Moscow during a separate event. According to the Estonian Ministry of Defence “the defence attaches accredited to Moscow are ready to take part in the event that they have been invited to attend at the Luga training area on 18 and 19 September, in the course of which Russia will present the Zapad joint military exercise.”

Lithuania receives invitation from Moscow to observe Zapad
On 16 August Lithuania received an invitation from Moscow to observe the Russian part of the Zapad exercise. This follows the Belarussian invitation to Lithuania to send its inspectors to observe the drill. It is planned that the Lithuanian Armed Forces’ arms control inspectors will participate in the Zapad observation program on Belarusian territory between 16-20 September and that Lithuania’s Defence Attaché to Russia will visit the Luga training area in the Leningrad region on 19 September to oversee a part of the exercise. Lithuanian Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis said that “The greatest risks come from potential errors on the part of the opponents and, possibly, local provocations -- this is primarily why we have to be vigilant”. According to the Minister, there is currently no information that suggests that exercise might be a prelude to an actual conflict. Some observers warn that Russian may leave a part of its military personnel and equipment in Belarus once the Zapad drills are over, to which the Minister stated: “Lithuania also plans to make use of all the possibilities provided by the OSCE, such as inspections to check if all military units have left the training areas.”

Latvia receives Russian invitation to observe Zapad military exercise
On 14 August, Russia extended an invitation to Latvia to observe its military exercise Zapad this fall. The Latvian Defence Attaché in Moscow received the invitation which has been received as a positive gesture. Defence Ministry State Secretary Janis Garisons said that Latvia would accept the invitation and would participate in observing the drills, which are held jointly by Russian and Belarussian forces. This means that three Latvian representatives will be observing the exercise.

LITHUANIA

Lithuanian troops readying for mission in Mali
A unit of Lithuanian troops is readying for a mission in Africa – they will join the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), West Africa, in October where the international community aims to curb Islamic fighters. The Lithuanian tasks will include protection functions as part of the German contingent. During preparations for the first shift in Mali, Lithuanian troops are currently updating their individual skills, training patrol and shooting response, as well as detention and evacuation, in addition to other tactical skills. They are also attending firing exercise and studying specific features of the operation district, the Lithuanian Defence Ministry said in a press release.

Belarus’ arms inspectors visit Lithuania
On 17 August, a team of Belarussian arms control inspectors inspected a Lithuanian military unit. The Belarusian inspectors will visit the mechanized infantry brigade Iron Wolf based in Rukla, in the central district of Jonava. The Defence Ministry stated in a press release that: “By accepting this verification visit, Lithuania demonstrates the transparency of its military activities and its wish to increase mutual trust”. In return, Lithuanian arms inspectors are to carry out a verification visit to a military unit in Belarus later this year.
Lithuanian leaders to discuss army needs and participation in international operations
The Lithuanian State Defence Council will discuss the needs of the national defence system and the country’s participation in international operations at its meeting on 21 August. The country’s top political and defence officials will also discuss threats in the region as Russia and Belarus prepare to hold their joint military exercise Zapad in September. The topics to be discussed at the meeting include regional threats, the national defence system’s needs and Lithuania’s participation in international operations in 2018 to 2019. Furthermore, the Defence Ministry has stated that the Armed Forces’ modernization and development plans for 2019 to 2020 will be presented to the council.

 

LATVIA

U.S. helicopters perform low-altitude flights in Latvian airspace
On 18 August, helicopters of the U.S. 10th Combat Aviation Brigade Task Force Phoenix will be performing low-altitude flights in Latvian airspace between Lielvarde and Dobele. Also on 18-20 August, U.S. and Latvian military helicopters will perform flights in Latvian airspace between Lielvarde, Dobele, Skrunda and Liepaja during the dark hours. The low-altitude flights are performed as part of a series of drills aimed at enhancing the interoperability of the U.S. and Latvian air forces as they operate in a multinational environment. The low-altitude flights are also necessary to maintain and improve air force pilots’ combat readiness and professional qualifications.

Chief of Defence Leonids Kalnins promoted Lieutenant General
On 16 August, President Raimonds Vejonis promoted Chief of Defence Leonids Kalnins to the rank of Lieutenant General. At the promotion ceremony, which took place at Riga Castle, President Vejonis gave Kalnins the highest military rank of the Latvian armed forces. The president promoted Kalnins to the rank of Lieutenant General based on a recommendation for promotion from Defence Minister Raimonds Bergmanis in appreciation of Kalnins' successful performance during the first six months since his appointment as the chief of defence. The Latvian parliament approved Kalnins as the new chief defence in late December 2016, and he took office on January 27, 2017.

 

ESTONIA

Saab signs contract with Estonian Defence Forces for delivery of training equipment
On 16 August, defence and security company Saab has signed a contract with the Estonian Defence Forces to deliver BT46 training systems to the defence forces and hand them over in 2018. The Estonian defence forces ordered the first laser simulators for gunnery and combat training in 2008. Saab has now received an additional order for simulators. The systems will be used by infantry brigades, at the regiments and at the infantry school. The contract includes BT46 systems for the CV9035 combat vehicle as well as several infantry simulators up to company level. Saab’s new Manpack 300 is used for the control and monitoring of exercises. Additionally, a five-year support contract is included. The BT46 system is in use in more than 20 countries and Saab has delivered more than 7,000 vehicle simulators to over 100 applications worldwide.

 

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