Over 30 NATO warships to arrive in Estonia

NATO warships in Estonia.
NATO warships in Estonia. Photo: Liis Treimann / Postimees

This year's largest naval exercise in the Baltic Sea, Baltops 23, is scheduled to start in Tallinn on Saturday and bring over 30 NATO warships and close to 3,700 naval personnel to the Estonian capital city.

«This year's Baltops is a historic event for us because there has never been such a large presence of NATO naval forces in Estonia before,» Cmdre. Juri Saska, commander of the Estonian Navy, said.

«Baltops 23 demonstrates the allies' commitment to the defense of Estonia and the entire Baltic Sea region, and it proves that training in our waters is crucial for this defense.»

Allied ships are coming to Tallinn from the United States, Sweden, Poland, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Spain, Lithuania, Latvia, Finland and Norway. The biggest vessel taking part in the exercise will be USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20), the flagship and command ship of the United States Sixth Fleet.

The first allied ships arrived in Tallinn already on Tuesday. The French corvette Commandant Blaison (F793) docked at Bekker-Meeruse Port, while the British amphibious transport dock HMS Albion (L14) arrived at Tallinn Old City Harbor.

The ships will be located at Tallinn Old City Harbor, Hundipea Harbor, Miinisadam Harbor, Bekker-Meeruse Port, and Muuga Harbor.

The Estonian Navy has been planning the event in cooperation with allies and various Estonian partners for nearly three years.

«I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who has supported us and cooperated with us -- and a special thanks to the Port of Tallinn for their great flexibility and cooperation,» Saska said.

The ships will depart from the ports on June 4, and the first joint exercises in Estonian waters will take place on June 5.

Launched in 1972, Baltops is an annual international exercise that demonstrates NATO's commitment to promoting the level of peace and security in the region. The aim is to increase the flexibility of the participating countries in conducting joint land, air and naval operations in the Baltic Sea region. The exercise is organized by the United States Sixth Fleet.