NATO Baltic Sea naval exercise underway, based on repelling Russian attack

The Royal Navy's HMS Defender (foreground) and the Russian training ship Perekop during last year's Exercise Baltops.
The Royal Navy's HMS Defender (foreground) and the Russian training ship Perekop during last year's Exercise Baltops. Source: SCANPIX / REUTERS

A major two-week Baltic Sea naval exercises involving some 30 ships and more than 3,000 personnel from NATO member states is getting underway today, Saturday, Reuters reports.

Dubbed Northern Coasts, the exercise involves all Baltic Sea NATO nations, including Sweden, as well as the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium and France.

The exercise is the first of its kind to rehearse a response to a Russian assault in the region, and so will entail amphibious operations and strikes from sea to land.

One major focus is securing Baltic sea routes, with vessels involved to rehearse off the coasts of Estonia and Latvia, Germany's naval chief, Vice-Admiral Jan Christian Kaack, told Reuters last Friday.

Germany's navy provides the command role from its new maritime headquarters based at Rostock; this on its own is, Reuters reports, part of an effort to beat Poland to the goal of providing NATO with a regional maritime headquarters, capable of leading the alliance's operations in the Baltic Sea in case of a conflict, Reuters reports.

"Our notification is on the way to SACEUR," Vice-Admiral Kaack went on, adding that a positive response to the application is anticipated.

"Finland and the Baltic states depend to almost 100 percent on the maritime supply routes through the Baltic Sea," Vice-Admiral Kaack went on, bearing in mind both the narrowness of the so-called Suwalki gap, at 65km, and the fact only two major roads and one rail line traverse the Poland-Lithuania border.

This means the Baltic States could become cut-off from the European "mainland."

Overall, the message being sent to Moscow with the exercise is one of vigilance and deterrence.

Reuters reports the USS Mesa Verde, an amphibious docking vessel, will be deployed by the U.S. Navy (see video below).


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Reuters

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