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25.08.2017  14:02

THE BALTICS

German President visits Estonia and Lithuania
On 22 August, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid in Tallinn, where they discussed the security situation in Europe. He held a speech where he reaffirmed support for ensuring the security of the Baltic countries. On 24 August, Steinmeier, while in Vilnius, stated that German troops leading NATO’s multinational battalion in Lithuania would be present in the country until the security situation improves. Lithuanian and German relations also extends to the buying of military equipment, as Lithuania is buying a considerable amount of weapons and other military equipment, including fighting vehicles and howitzers, from Germany. 

 

THE BALTICS AND RUSSIA

Russian arms inspectors performed observation flights over Lithuania and Latvia
On the 24 August, Russian arms control inspectors carried out an observation flights over Lithuania and Latvia under the Treaty on Open Skies. Under the treaty, an observation flights may be carried out over the entire territory of a treaty nation and may only be restricted for reasons of flight safety. Lithuanian and Latvian military personnel were on board the Russian Air Force’s specially equipped AN-30B aircraft throughout the observations to ensure that the Russians follow the pre-approved flight plan and use certified surveillance equipment. The aim of such observation flights is to verify compliance with existing arms control agreements.

Russian submarine and corvette spotted near Latvian border
On 23 August, a submarine and a corvette of the Russian naval forces were spotted near the Latvian border. The Kilo-class submarine and the Parchim-class corvette were seen in Latvia’s exclusive economic zone 14.5 nautical miles from Latvia’s territorial waters.

NATO aircraft in Baltics scrambled three times last week over Russian aircraft
NATO military aircraft conducting the Baltic air-policing mission from Lithuania and Estonia were scrambled three times last week to intercept Russian military aircraft in international airspace over the Baltic Sea. The first time, the aircraft took off to identify and escort two Russian IL- 20 planes flying from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad and the second time to intercept an IL-20 headed for mainland Russia. There was also an incident where an Il- 20 reconnaissance aircraft was intercepted en route from Kaliningrad to mainland Russia. All the Russian aircraft had flight plans and kept radio contact with the regional air traffic control centre, but their on-board transponders were switched off.

 

THE BALTICS AND EXERCISE

NATO: Russia and Belarus do not ensure transparency during Zapad exercise
On 23 August, NATO officials said that Russia and Belarus have failed to meet international commitments to be fully transparent about the Zapad exercise next month. Belarus has said that Zapad 2017 involves 12,700 troops, just under the limit of the Vienna Document, but critics claim there could be as many as 100,000 troops. The NATO official said: “that neither Russia nor Belarus has applied the Vienna Document transparency measures to Zapad”. The NATO official further said that Belarus had invited military liaison missions to attend a special ‘visitors day’ on its territory, with two alliance experts due to go along – “However, this is not the same (level of) observation as set out in the Vienna Document. A Vienna Document observation (mission) has required elements to it -- briefings on the scenario and progress, opportunities to talk to individual soldiers about the exercise, and overflights of the exercise.” However, Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin dismisses the concerns over the exercises: “I do not see any reason to be afraid. Everything, as usual, will be open and friendly”.

 

LITHUANIA

Lithuanian president asks parliament to allow sending more troops to US-led operations
On 22 August, President Dalia Grybauskaite submitted a resolution to the parliament for approval that would allow sending more Lithuanian troops to international operations. The draft resolution provides for contributing up to 40 military and civil defence personnel to the US-led military operations Inherent Resolve and Spartan Shield in Iraq and Syria. The current mandate from the parliament allows sending up to 30 instructors to Inherent Resolve and only for the purpose of training the Iraqi armed forces. Six Lithuanian instructors are currently taking part in the operation. The new resolution does not specify if Lithuanian troops will be sent to Syria or to Iraq. The proposal to step up Lithuania’s contribution to international operations was endorsed on 21 August by the president-chaired State Defence Council.

Lithuania to increase its contribution to international operations by 30 %
On 21 August, Lithuania State Defence Council presented a plan to increase its contribution to international operations by approximately 30 percent. The plan covers an increase in Lithuania’s participation in NATO, UN, US and EU-led anti-terrorist and security assurance operations in 2018 and 2019. The current mandate for Lithuanian troops’ participation in international operations expires by the end of the year. The plan to increase the number of Lithuanian troops in international operations will have to be approved by the parliament. Around 90 Lithuanian troops are currently serving in nine international operations and missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Ukraine, Mali, Central the African Republic and the Mediterranean.

Lithuanians continue to volunteer for military service
On 18 August, the Lithuanian Defence Ministry reported that many young Lithuanians have volunteered for enlistment in the Armed Forces this year, as in previous years, and it is possible that all those joining military conscription service this year will be on a voluntarily basis. Just over 2,400 of the 3,500 people that are to be called up for a nine-month military service this year have applied to be enlisted even though they were not on the draftee lists. Lithuania reintroduced partial military conscription in 2015 in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine and the Baltic Sea region. Since then, all those enlisted for the service have done so on a voluntary basis.

Eight Lithuanian troops leave for NATO operation in Afghanistan
On 18 August, the Lithuanian Defence Ministry said that eight Lithuanian troops are leaving for NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. The troops from the Deployable Communications and Information Systems Module (DCISM) of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas Headquarters Battalion will be deployed to Afghanistan for four to six months to ensure communication and information systems support for units involved in the operation.
This is the third time in the past several years that a DCISM group has been deployed to international operations in Afghanistan. The module’s troops have also served three rotations in NATO’s Operation Active Fence in Turkey and once in the Alliance’s peacekeeping mission in Kosovo (KFOR). The DCISM is the only company-sized unit of the Lithuanian Armed Forces assigned to NATO forces on a permanent basis.

LATVIA

Multinational operation Open Spirit 2017 to be conducted in the Baltic Sea
Between 18 and 31 August, the annual multinational military operation Open Spirit 2017 will be conducted in territorial waters of Latvia. This operation is dedicated to clearing Explosive Remnants of War (ERW), namely from WWI and WWII, in the Baltic Sea. This year’s operation, led by Latvian Naval Force, will involve 15 ships and six unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance dive teams from 10 countries: Belgium, Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland and the UK. The Baltic Naval Squadron (BALTRON) and Standing NATO Mine Counter Measures Group One (SNMCMG1) will also take part in the training. Latvian Naval Force will be represented by minehunters M-02 Imanta, M-08 Rūsiņš and command and support ship A-90 Varonis. SNMCMG1 will be represented by Latvian Navy’s flagship A-53 Virsaitis. Open Spirit is a training drill hosted by one of the Baltic States on rotating basis. This international training is designed to foster command staff, mine-hunting vessels’ and clearance dive team cooperation and interoperability, as well as tactical and operational compatibility of NATO and Partnership for Peace (PfP) units.

Latvia to buy Stinger air-defence systems from Denmark
18 August, the Latvian Ministry of Defence and the Danish Ministry of Defence signed an agreement for the purchasing of Stinger ground-to-air defence systems, currently held by Danish Armed Forces. The sum of the purchase or the number of the equipment was not disclosed. According to the deal, Latvia will receive missiles alongside launch systems. The planned deal is expected to be completed in the first half of 2018 when the systems will arrive in Latvia.

Latvian army instructors to continue training of Ukrainian troops
Last week, instructors from the Latvian Armed Forces started military training of instructors from Ukraine. The Latvian National Armed Forces (NAF) are scheduled to provide several training courses to Ukraine’s military instructors this year. The Latvian soldiers have been tasked with providing basic training to Ukrainian troops, which includes teaching the basic skills and the course in preparation and leading military training exercises. Ukrainian troops participate in various training courses in Latvian armed forces’ units on a regular basis.

 

ESTONIA

Estonian Defence Minister discusses Ukraine’s security situation with Poroshenko
On 24 August, during meetings in Kiev with Estonia’s Defence Minister Juri Luik, the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the chairman of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchynov, the security situation of Ukraine was discussed. In the meeting with Turchynov, Luik said that Estonia will continue supporting Ukraine politically and in practical cooperation in the field of defence. Estonia intends to continue cooperation in the training of special operations units and in the field of military medicine, and will continue sharing its cyber knowledge with Ukraine. Estonia supports the preservation of the sanctions imposed on Russia, the minister further added.

Estonian government planning to keep defence spending at 2.2 % of GDP
On 24 August, the Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas and Defence Minister Juri Luik stated, that the government plans to leave defence spending at the present level of 2.2 percent of GDP. This year, Estonia’s defence spending amounts to 2.17 percent of GDP as a result of the investments made to enable the stay of allied forces there. The government does not intend to decrease spendings on national defence, although the state budget strategy states that by 2021 national defence spending will have gradually decreased to 2.02 percent. The commander of the defence forces, Riho Terras, said that keeping defence spending at 2.2 percent of GDP first and foremost gives a boost to the development of the defence forces in two areas - building up stocks of ammunition in an accelerated procedure as well as speeding up the development of the capabilities already set out in the national defence development plan.

 

 

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