Active Phase of Steadfast Jazz Begins, Laaneots Sounds Warning on Russia
Steadfast Jazz, being called NATO's first "Article Five" exercise, began its active phase yesterday Poland, with 134 Defense Forces and Defense League members from Estonia participating in a scenario involving a simulated attack from the east.
In comments on ETV, former commander in chief retired Gen. Ants Laaneots said that the total number of NATO participants is much lower than those in Russia's exercise in September, Zapad.
Steadfast Jazz has 6,000 soldiers, compared to 22,200 soldiers at Zapad - 12,800 from Belarus and 9,400 from Kaliningrad.
"Although Russia tried to paint it as a scenario aimed against terrorists who in the simulation attacked Kaliningrad and Belarus, it was purely a major conventional warfare exercise," said Laaneots.
He said that Russia had started restructuring its forces since a former army general became defense minister, and that Zapad was preceded by an exercise in the east and central military districts with 100,000 participants.
"The preparations that Russia is making are very serious and should be taken seriously, as Zapad 2013 was above all meant to show the Baltics and Poland their place. Based on the new Russian doctrine from 2009, Russia's ultimate goal is to become a global administrator, replacing the US at some point as global policeman."
Newly appointed NATO ground forces commander Lt. Gen. Frederick Hodges, who visited Estonia last week, is considered the first NATO senior officer who has said that the next exercise had to simulate repelling an attack from the east.
Hodges said that a NATO exercise in 2015, Trident Juncture in Spain and Portugal, and not so much Steadfast Jazz, will be modeled in response to Zapad. This is mainly because NATO still has tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan. "What interested me was the strategic movement of forces - how to bring a large number of troops and munitions to a specific location. This is important for an exercise. This will be practiced by NATO," he was quoted by Estonian-language ETV as saying.