NATO vows more exercises, practises defending Estonia

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PHOTO: Mihkel Maripuu

At NATO defence ministers’ meeting in Brussels yesterday, promises were made to start serious planning of joint defence of own territories, after exit from Afghanistan. Vitally for Estonia, an emphasis was laid on a near-future event – large-scale exercises called Steadfast Jazz, to be held in November, concerning defence of a member state against military attack.

Since Estonia’s joining NATO in 2004 to the upcoming Steadfast Jazz, no military exercises of such scale have been held focussing on the scenario of defending a member from military assault.

Therefore, underlines Minister of Defence Urmas Reinsalu, it is a remarkable development that there will indeed be large-scale exercises with a scenario of a (imaginary) state launching military attack against Estonia, with NATO headquarters and allied forced acting out our assistance.

«It is, naturally, very important for us that the exercise has been in planning since last spring already, meaning that NATO’s planners have been acting out military defence of Estonia for a very long time, and will do that also during the exercises,» said Mr Reinsalu.

The main load of the exercises, held in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, will be borne by countries central to NATO’s high-readiness forces, the NATO Response Force (NRF). «The coordinator or so-called host country will be Poland, which will also engage largest percentage of forces,» said Mr Reinsalu. «Another country heavily involved is France, as these two are both part of NRF.»

Latvia’s defence minister Artis Pabriks also confirmed that they will be giving their best to persuade as many states as possible to participate in these exercises, as nothing of this calibre has ever been organised in the Baltic Sea region.

Latvia has so far conformed participation by its combat company and 500 of command post personnel. However, additional elements are being considered, such as Special Forces. Also, according to Mr Pabriks, the Latvians will try and convince Estonia and Latvia to include the Baltic Naval Squadron BALTRON.

The scope and importance of above-mentioned exercises was also underlined by NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

According to Mr Rasmussen it was decided, to maintain the good cooperation acquired in Afghanistan, that NATO hold more joint exercises. He said that for this purpose, an extensive exercises-plan will be compiled up to 2020, covering all challenges faced by NATO.

«Division level exercises is also a solid sign to third countries that NATO deterrence capabilities are on the rise, when it comes to fast response,» noted Mr Reinsalu. «Facing the reality: in four years, Russia has doubled its capabilities, regarding offensive arms, in our region.»

Exercises in defence of Estonia

•    Steadfast Jazz, large-scale collective NATO defence exercises, held in November 2013.

•    During the exercises, NATO collective defence pursuant to Article 5 will be trained, assuming an attack on Estonia and other Baltic states.

•    The exercises will take place in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, centred on defence of Estonia.

•    Command post and field exercises will take place simultaneously, real units training their manoeuvres.

•    The exercises come as sequel to last year autumn command post exercise Steadfast Juncture, held in Estonia, where hundreds of member states’ officers and non-commissioned officers trained leadership of NATO reaction forces at Ämari Airbase.

Source: Ministry of Defence

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