Luik: Military exercises on Baltic Sea demonstrate allied commitment ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

NATO troops participating in Baltops.
NATO troops participating in Baltops. Source: Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Scanpix

U.S.-led allies are conducting the international regional exercise Baltops on the Baltic Sea this week, while the U.K.-led deployment exercise Baltic Protector will also be carried out this summer, and according to Minister of Defence Jüri Luik (Isamaa), both exercises demonstrate NATO allies' commitment.

The U.K.-led multinational high-readiness Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) formed under the leadership of the U.K. is a very important cooperation format for Estonia, and Baltic Protector is the first larger naval exercise for developing the cooperation capability of participating partners, Luik was quoted by spokespeople for the Ministry of Defence as saying on Tuesday.

"Both exercises demonstrate allies' will, determination and ability to protect the Baltic Sea region," the minister highlighted. "The Baltic Protector exercise provides a great opportunity to practice the ability of the JEF to work together, share experiences and demonstrate that together we are stronger and can do more. The exercise will also strengthen the partnership between JEF states."

In the framework of Baltops, allied units will practice landing on Kallaste Beach in Saaremaa on Wednesday. Participants in the exercise will include U.S., Polish, Romanian and Estonian troops. The Estonian Navy's command and support vessel EML Wambola (M311), the staff of the Estonian naval fleet and members of the Saaremaa District of the volunteer Estonian Defence League (Kaitseliit) will also join the effort.

"An excellent example of efforts to achieve a common goal is that Baltops and Baltic Protector have joined forces this year," Luik said.

Baltops is an annual military exercise that began in the 1970s. The purpose of Baltops is to train gunnery, practice replenishment at sea, anti-submarine warfare (ASW), radar tracking and interception, mine countermeasures, seamanship, search and rescue, maritime interdiction operations and scenarios dealing with potential real world crises and maritime security.

The first stage of the Baltic Protector exercise, Danex, began in Denmark on May 24. Baltops is the second stage of the exercise, and Amphibex, the final stage of the exercise, will take place at the beginning of July. These stages will bring approximately 20 naval vessels to the Baltic Sea region.

The vessels to arrive in the region include warships of the Royal Navy, and approximately 3,000 troops of the U.K.-led JEF. Baltic Protector is the first large-scale deployment exercise of the JEF, the purpose of which is to reaffirm commitment to defending the Baltic region.

The U.K. Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) was launched in September 2014. Estonia and eight other European countries — U.K., Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Sweden and Norway — signed the JEF cooperation agreement in London in June 2018.

The defense cooperation framework focuses on deterrence and ensuring security in the Baltic Sea region and Northern Europe in general, and is also prepared to contribute to operations in crisis hotspots.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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