People apparently love this issue, almost as much as information and netcentric warfare . . . . So, give the people want they want.
Today’s Kommersant says, “They’ve Decided to Have Maneuvers on Russia’s Doorstep.”
The NATO leadership has decided to exercise in the airspace over Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, with forces from those countries plus the U.S., France, and Poland. Kommersant calls it a symbolic start to a large-scale program with the Baltic member-states that will continue through this year.
The staff of NATO’s joint air forces command is quoted as calling the exercises ‘routine’ and having a strictly ‘organizational character.’ But they will also be “a demonstration of alliance solidarity with the countries of the Baltic region that have joined it.”
Participants intend to give special attention to increased coordination between NATO air forces and to patrolling air space. It will give NATO a great opportunity to use regional air forces and evaluate their readiness.
The Baltic Region Training Event scheduled for 17-20 March was developed at the end of 2008. France will use its Mirage 2000C, Lithuania its L-39 Albatros, Poland F-16, and the U.S. tanker aircraft. Latvia and Estonia will provide ground control. Fighters will land at Tallinn airport for refueling and simulated maintenance.
Kommersant says the issue of serious exercises with the Baltic members came up after Russia’s short war with Georgia in August 2008. Baltic concerns were reinforced after Moscow’s Zapad-2009 exercise with Belorussia. According to the paper, Baltic leaders saw in this exercise work on various scenarios for seizing the Baltic countries. It notes that Russia’s possible purchase of France’s Mistral has also caused a stir in the Baltics and Poland. Leaders of the former Soviet republics have asked the U.S. to press Paris not to sell it, according to Kommersant.
Washington and Brussels have heard Baltic concerns and planned a series of political and military steps to calm them. Kommersant names the agreement to place Patriot air defense missiles in Morong, Poland, 75 km from Kaliningrad’s border in April as one of the steps. NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly will meet in Riga in May. Also noted is the June amphibious exercise in Estonia in which 500 U.S. Marines will participate. Kommersant says Estonian officers will command the exercise.
The steps will culminate this fall in a joint ground exercise involving 2,000 U.S., Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian troops as well as transport ships.
Newsru.com added a comment from Fedor Lukyanov, chief editor of the foreign affairs journal ‘Russia in Global Politics.’ He noted that the Baltics don’t trust NATO completely, and European members of the alliance most of all, and suspect that they won’t risk relations with Russia in a crisis. The fact that these will be the first on-the-ground exercises in the Baltics since the countries joined the alliance 6 years ago just serves as extra confirmation of this.