Commanders Discuss NATO-Russian Observations of Military Exercises
The Annual Baltic Conference on Defense took place in Tallinn yesterday, with high-level US generals in attendance.
Officials were given an overview of Estonia's 10-year national defense development plan, and the security situation in the Baltic Sea region was discussed, reported ETV.
One of the topics of discussion was the reciprocal invitations by NATO and Russia to observe each others' upcoming military exercises.
"We have invited Russian observers to our Steadfast Jazz. They have invited allied observers to Zapad so, while there are concerns, we also need to focus on the gains of this transparency and watching each other on how we do exercises," said the head of US Europe Command, Philip Breedlove.
Steadfast Jazz, a major military exercise based on NATO's Article 5, is set to take place in Latvia and Poland in November, with around 6,000 soldiers and 3,000 staff participating.
Russia has criticized Steadfast Jazz for restoring Cold War relations, while its own upcoming exercise organized jointly with Belarus near the Estonian border, Zapad 2013, it said, focuses on counter-terrorism. Estonian Defense Minister Urmas Reinsalu, meanwhile, has taken issue with Russia's stated goal of the exercise.
Zapad 2013 will officially involve around twice as many soldiers as Steadfast Jazz, but the Estonian military believes real numbers are even bigger.
"I've heard the same rumor this morning. I have no absolute data that I can share with you and I think we'll learn more from that in the days to come," Breedlove said.
Some analysts have viewed the low level of Western participation in Steadfast Jazz as problematic, recommending that Poland take the reins in promoting the exercise.