Tag: Security

Australia trying to figure out who stole F-35 data

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II

Australia is trying to determine who is behind what has been called an extensive hack of sensitive defence information.

About 30GB of data was compromised in the hack on a government contractor, the BBC and other news outlets have reported. That information included commercially sensitive data on Australia’s F-35 program. Data on P-8 Poseidon aircraft and C-130 transport aircraft was also compromised. Naval data was also included in the hack.

“It could be one of a number of different actors,” Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne told the Australian Broadcasting Corp “It could be a state actor, (or) a non-state actor. It could be someone who was working for another company.”

He said the information was not classified.

Australia’s special advisor on cyber security, Alastair MacGibbon, said there are a number of ways the breach could have taken place. “Unfortunately, there are a range of ways that the attacker could have got in, including default passwords on certain key parts of the IT infrastructure of the target company,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

The target of the hack was an aerospace firm with about 50 employees.

 

Zapad 2017: what you need to know about Belarus and Russia’s military exercises

Zapad 2017: what you need to know about Belarus and Russia’s military exercises

Russia and Belarus kick off Zapah 2017: what you need to know

Russia and Belarus’ Zapad military exercises have provoked concern among Nato members and allies in eastern Europe.

“We are going to be watching very closely the course of these exercises,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during a visit to Poland last month.

Here’s what you need to know

The numbers

Scheduled to last between September 14 and 20 in Belarus and eastern Russia the drills officially include 12,700 troops, with a little under half coming from Russia and the rest being Belarussian military. However, European sources have suggested up to 100 000 personnel could be involved, a figure denied by Moscow.

According to figures announced by Russia’s Defence Ministry, the drills will involve around 70 airplanes and helicopters, 10 combat ships, along with 680 units of combat equipment, including 250 tanks and 200 machine guns, multiple launch rocket systems and other heavy weaponry.

The scenario

The Russian Defence Ministry has always insisted that the purpose of the drills is purely defensive

The drills will take place on the territory of three ranges in Leningrad, Pskov and Kaliningrad in Russian and six ranges in Belarus. The name “Zapad” (which translates as “west”) is said to refer to the western part of Russia and Belarus and not the states of the European Union, Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin said in an interview with Deutsche Welle. He also called on western media not to politicise the exercise and not to misinterpret its objectives.

“Some people come to a conclusion, the exercise “Zapad 2017” aims to “set the stage for invasion” and “occupation” of Lithuania, Poland and the Ukraine. None of this surprising theories has anything to do with the reality,” — Fomin announced.

According to the premise of the drills, Belarus gets attacked by three imaginary enemy states: Veyshnoria, Vesbaria and Lubenia. Lubenia is situated on the territory of western Belarus, while Veisbaria and Lubenia — are in territory belonging to Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The aim of the drills is to test the ability of joint forces of Russia and Belarus to hold off the enemy’s attack and practice cooperation between the military administration of the two countries.

Nato concerns

The governments of states sharing borders with Russia have expressed fears that the drills will be used for military provocation.

The main concern is that Russian may use the exercise to relocate a large number of military personnel to Belarus. The head of staff of the Ukrainian Army, Victor Muzhenko, has suggested that Russia could then launch an assault on its neighbours on the grounds of “massive provocations” concerning “the abuse of rights and threats to the safety of Russian-speaking minority”.

Baltic states have similar concerns, even though the idea of an invasion is further off.

Latvia sent a task force to Belarus to observe the drills, justifying the move by citing the risk of incursions into its airspace: The minister for foreign affairs Edgars Rinkevics has indicated it is possible foreign military aircraft could overfly neighbouring territory. At the same time, he played down the prospect of military invasion — especially due to an enhanced Nato presence in the region.

Meanwhile, Latvia is also undertaking some additional security measures. Authorities have even called on fans of strike ball — a military game, where participants dress in camouflage and carry fake weapons — to give up on their hobby for a while, to avoid causing panic among populations in border regions.

The Lithuanian authorities share the position of Latvia. “We are prepared better, than during the “Zapad 2009” and “Zapad 2013” exercises, the president of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite declared on September, 14 in an interview for LRT radio station. “More defensive units and measures are now located on our territory”.

By Maria Epifanova

 

Estonian president discusses migration, digital issues with Italian colleague

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid met with Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Monday

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid on Monday met with Italian President Sergio Mattarella who hosted a lunch in honor of the Estonian head of state in Rome, during which the presidents discussed the migration crisis, opportunities of the digital society and the future of the European Union.

“The fact that hundreds of thousands of migrants from Africa arrive in Italy every year — and for many years in a row — is not Italy’s problem. It is a problem of the whole of Europe and so all of us hold the key to solving the problem. As Italian fighters will protect our airspace in Amari next year, we must also understand joint concerns that are to the south of us. An not only understand them, but also contribute to solving them,” the president said after the meeting.

The heads of state at the meeting focused on discussing the opportunities of the digital society and questions concerning cyber security. Kaljulaid said that many modern dangers do not depend on geography.

“Those risks are similar in Rome and Tallinn and this is why cooperation between countries is important, a good example of which is the participation of Italy in the work of our NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence (CCDCOE) in Tallinn since its launch,” the president said.

Speaking about the future of the European Union, Kaljulaid first and foremost considered it important that the member states remain united in important questions. “This is our — Estonia’s, and in reality the whole of EU’s — strategic interest. Europe is faced with a number of challenges, but no member state can solve a big problem alone better than together,” Kaljulaid said.

The president on Monday evening will open an exhibition at the Italian National Gallery of Modern Art that will feature the works of Estonian painter Konrad Magi. Kaljulaid on Tuesday will visit three schools in Rome and gift them with reproductions of Magi’s painting “Landscape of Italy. Rome.”

 

Polish, British foreign affairs and defence ministers to convene in London

Polish Foreign Affairs Minister Witold Waszczykowski, his British counterpart Boris Johnson, alongside Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz and his opposite number Michael Fallon are to meet in London on Thursday.

The meeting, which marks the sixth such event held within the format since it was first launched in 2010, is a follow-up on a gathering of the four officials held in Edinburgh in January.

The officials are likely to touch on post-Brexit collaboration within the framework of multinational organisations, including the United Nations Security Council and NATO, the PAP news agency reports. The ministers may also discuss security issues alongside the presence of British soldiers on Polish soil.

The second despatch of 150 British troops from the Light Dragoons reconnaissance regiment from Catterick is currently on its way to Poland and will begin their mission as part of NATO’s multinational forces mid-October.

According to PAP, another topic likely to be debated on Thursday is the future Polish-British bilateral defence treaty. In September, British Deputy Defence Minister Mark Lancaster announced that the pact would be signed this year.

The bilateral talks in London come ahead of the 21 December Polish-British cross-governmental consultations in Warsaw, an event to be attended by Prime Ministers Beata Szydło and Theresa May, along with other top officials. (aba)

Source: PAP

 

As Russia threatens, Sweden ponders joining NATO

Vladimir Putin’s mock attacks on Scandinavia could make the Swedes end 200 years of neutrality

SWEDEN’S Aurora-17 drill, which continues until the end of September, is the biggest war game that the supposedly neutral country has carried out for 23 years. Not only does it involve 19,000 of Sweden’s armed forces (about half of them), including its Home Guard, but also more than 1,500 troops from Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, France, Norway and America.

All except Finland are members of NATO, the big western alliance.

The size of the exercise and its main focus, the defence of Gotland, an island in the Baltic Sea some 350km (220 miles) from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, is a reflection of how insecure Sweden feels.

Vladimir Putin, having gobbled up Crimea and attacked Ukraine, is flexing his muscles near the Baltics and Scandinavia. Russia’s massive Zapad-17 military exercise, which finished this week, involved sending 100,000 troops to Belarus and the Baltic to practise repelling the “Western Coalition”.

Foreign observers were banned, as they never are from NATO exercises. (Perhaps luckily: a Russian helicopter reportedly fired missiles at spectators by mistake, though the government denies this.)

There have been plenty of other causes for disquiet. In March 2013 Russia sent two Tupolev Tu-22M3 bombers, escorted by four Sukhoi Su-27 jet fighters, across the Gulf of Finland to within 40km of Gotland.

Su-27UB , Su-27P and Tupolev Tu-22M3

The planes only veered off after carrying out what NATO analysts believed was a dummy nuclear attack on targets in Sweden. After many years of static or declining defence spending, Sweden had to rely on Danish F-16s, part of NATO’s Baltic air-policing operation, to respond.

In 2014 a Russian submarine penetrated the Stockholm archipelago, departing without being found. Since then Russia has stepped up the frequency of menacing, no-notice military drills in the region.

Small wonder many Swedes think they should end 200 years of neutrality by joining NATO. If they did, any Russian attack on Sweden would be treated as an attack on America and its 28 NATO allies.

All the main Swedish opposition parties want to join, apart from the ultra-nationalist Sweden Democrats, who like many European populists have a curious fondness for Mr Putin.

Polls suggest that a plurality of Swedes favour NATO membership. A Pew survey earlier this year found 47% in support of membership and 39% against.

But for now the Social Democratic-Green coalition government, in office since 2014, wants to get as close as possible to NATO without actually joining it.

Peter Hultqvist, Sweden’s defence minister, is the author of a policy that tries to square the contradictions in the country’s security policy.

Part of the “Hultqvist doctrine”, as it is known, is to improve Sweden’s neglected capacity for self-defence. Military spending is rising—by about 5% annually in real terms over the next three years—and conscription is being reintroduced next year.

Peter Hultqvist, Sweden’s defence minister

The other part is building closer defence co-operation with its non-NATO neighbour, Finland, as well as with America and Baltic littoral states in NATO. All of which Aurora-17 is meant to demonstrate.

Both Sweden and Finland also entered into a “host country support agreement” with NATO, which allows alliance forces to move through their territory and pre-position kit by invitation.

Mr Hultqvist himself is suspected of hankering after NATO membership. But for now the government has ruled it out. There is still a good deal of anti-Americanism on the Swedish left (which Donald Trump does little to dispel).

There is also a fear, expressed by the foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, of provoking Mr Putin (who has promised to “eliminate the threat” were Sweden to join NATO). Many observers doubt that Finland, where popular support for NATO is lower, would be ready to make a joint decision in favour of membership—something Swedish NATO boosters see as crucial.

There are good reasons why NATO itself might be keen for Sweden (and Finland) to join its fold. Defence of its Baltic members would be much harder without guaranteed access to Swedish ground and airspace. As a member, Sweden would be far more integrated with NATO’s command-and-control systems. Interoperability of its forces with those of the alliance would improve, making them more effective in a fight.

Sweden’s NATO question is being fudged for now, but it will loom large in next year’s general election. If the Swedes do eventually make the jump, Mr Putin will have only himself to blame.

This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the headline “A funny kind of neutrality”

 

Estonian Defence Minister to visit Finland on Wednesday

Estonian Minister of Defense Jüri Luik

HELSINKI, Sep 12, STT-BNS – Estonian Minister of Defense Jüri Luik is to visit Finland on Wednesday, the Finnish Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday.

Among others, Luik is to meet with Finnish Minister of Defense Jussi Niinisto, with whom he will discuss bilateral relations, the security situation on the Baltic Sea and bilateral and international cooperation, the ministry’s statement said.

Jüri Luik has held the positions of Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Estonian Minister of Defense and the permanent representative for Estonia in NATO. Currently he is the Estonian minister of Defence.

Prior to his current position, Mr. Luik was from 2003 – 2007 the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Estonia to Canada, the United Mexican States and the United States of America. He has been active in Estonian foreign affairs since 1991.

 

Send UN peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine, Putin says

A Ukrainian serviceman patrols at the humanitarian aid center in Avdiivka, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. Evgeniy Maloletka

Russia will ask the United Nations to send peacekeeping troops to eastern Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin says.

Putin told journalists Tuesday that armed peacekeepers could provide safety for staff of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) which is monitoring the ceasefire there. “It would help resolve the problem in eastern Ukraine,” said Putin.

More than 10,000 people have died in fighting between Ukrainian soldiers and Russian-backed separatists. A peace deal is in place but fighting has continued on and off.

Ukraine previously asked for peacekeepers but the separatists have opposed that. German officials said Tuesday they were surprised about Putin’s call for peacekeepers but supportive of such a move.

Putin also warned that any decision by the United States to supply weapons to Ukraine would further the fighting and spark a backlash that could see pro-Russian separatists to expand their military campaign in the region. “It’s hard to imagine how the self-declared republics would respond,” Putin said. “Perhaps they would deploy weapons to other conflict zones.”

 

US general doesn’t trust Russia’s numbers for Zapad, says media should be invited

General Ben Hodges, Commander, U.S. Army Europe

VILNIUS – The US Army’s commander in Europe on Friday called on Russia to invite media representatives to observe next month’s military exercise Zapad (West), saying that there is not much ground for trusting the numbers given by Moscow about the scale of the drills.

“The Russians had not given us a lot of reason to trust the numbers that they say. But again, the exercise hasn’t happened yet, so we don’t know what they are going to do,” Lieutenant General Ben Hodges said at a joint news conference with Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis in Vilnius.

Moscow says that Zapad 2017 will involve fewer than 13,000 troops, but NATO officials think that the number was artificially reduced by splitting the exercise into separate parts so as not to give wider access to observers, as required by international rules.

The war games will be held in the western part of Russia and its Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad and in Belarus between Sept. 14 and 20.

Hodges said that Russia could dispel concerns by inviting journalists to observe the drills the way Western countries do.

“I think this would all be solved and everybody would be relaxed if the Russian Federation invited the media to everything that they do the way that Lithuanian armed forces do, the German armed forces do, that American armed forces do,” the US general said.

“If the Russian Federation is truly interested in stability and security, then be transparent, invite media to see everything that they do. In the West, we have journalists, think-tanks, parliamentarians, civic organizations, they come to every exercise that we do, so that people don’t have to be concerned or worried about what we are actually doing,” Hodges said.

“So what is the risk could be alleviated with transparency. We have Russian inspectors come to our exercises all the time. I’ve had Russians visit me in Germany, Poland, Bulgaria during exercises. I would love to have them follow me around all day just to lower the temperature and to build some confidence,” he said.

The general said that he feels confident in the deterrence capability NATO has created in the region, but added that the Alliance has to remain vigilant.

“But we also have to always remain vigilant, to continue to try to understand what potential adversaries are doing. Of course, the Alliance faces several different types of threats. Being alert is the responsibility for all of our security services,” Hodges said.

“But I don’t have a good record for predicting the future”, he added.

The US has sent extra fighter jets and a company of troops to Lithuania for the period of Zapad, but the US general said that the Alliance’s exercises will be held according to schedule.

Also, some 1,000 troops from different NATO countries were earlier this year deployed to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland each.

Russia and Belarus say that Zapad 2017 will be “purely defensive”. Lithuanian Defense Minister Karoblis said on Friday that “defense may be followed by a counteroffensive and a simulation of an offensive”.

 

North Korea launched missile that flew over Japan

 

Young boys curl up on the floor in an evacuation drill

North Korea has fired a missile over Japan which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called the “most serious and grave ever” threat to the country.

The missile was fired just before 6 a.m. in Japan. The launch set off warnings in the northern part of the country urging people to seek shelter.

It flew over Erimomisaki, on the northern island of Hokkaido, and broke into three pieces before falling into the Pacific Ocean, about 1,180 kilometers (733 miles) off the Japanese coast.

The missile was in flight for about 14 minutes, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at an emergency press conference. “There is no immediate report of the fallen objects and no damage to the ships and aircraft,” he added.

Pentagon spokesman US Army Col. Rob Manning said the launch did not pose an immediate threat to North America.

Abe told reporters he had a 40-minute phone call with US President Donald Trump to discuss the missile launch. The two countries have requested an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council, according to Japan’s ambassador to the UN, Koro Bessho.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

“The international community has to put more pressure on North Korea,” Ambassador Bessho said.

The missile was launched near the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, which is rare.

CNN’s Will Ripley, who is on the ground in Pyongyang, said the news had not been broadcast to people inside North Korea as of 9:45 a.m. local time.

South Korea responded by conducting a bombing drill at 9:30 a.m. local time to test its “capability to destroy the North Korean leadership” in cases of emergency, an official with the country’s Defense Ministry told CNN.

Yoon Young-chan, the head of South Korea’s Presidential Office Public Affairs Office, told reporters that Four F-15K fighter jets dropped eight one-ton MK-84 bombs at a shooting range.

Republic of Korea Aor Force (RoKAF) Boeing F-15K Slam Eagle

The operation was meant “to showcase a strong punishment capability against the North,” he said.

First time since 1998

Tuesday’s launch comes just three days after Pyongyang test-fired three short-range ballistic missiles from Kangwon province — of the three, one failed.

Notably, however, it is the the first time the country has successfully fired a missile over Japan since 1998, when it sent a satellite launch vehicle over the country.

North Korea also launched satellites into orbit in 2012 and 2016, after which parts of both rockets that carried the satellites fell into the waters to Japan’s east and south. Experts say those satellite launches could be used to test the same technology used in ballistic missiles.

North Korea’s missile tests 

Analysts believe Tuesday’s launch shows a new level of confidence from the North Koreans.

“It is a big deal that they overflew Japan, which they have carefully avoided doing for a number of years, even though it forced them to test missiles on highly lofted trajectories, and forced them to launch their satellites to the south, which is less efficient than launching to the east (due to the Earth’s rotational motion),” said David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“This will make it more difficult for the US to get Japanese support for diplomacy, unfortunately, at exactly the time when the situation is heating up.”

US Senator Lindsey Graham quickly weighed in on Twitter, calling the launch a “a big-time” escalation of conflict.

Senator Lindsey Graham

“Trump Admin must forcefully respond to convince N. Korea their efforts to destabilize the region & world will not be allowed to mature,” he said.

Graham made headlines earlier this month after telling NBC’s “Today” show that President Trump assured him “if there’s going to be a war to stop them, it will be over there,” a comment which concerned US allies already in range of much of North Korea’s arsenal.

‘Reckless act’

Minutes after the missile was launched, residents in northern Japan received a text message urging them to seek shelter in a strong structure or a basement. “We were awoken by sirens and messages from the government telling us to take cover,” one local resident told CNN.

The first message came in at 6:02 a.m. Japan time:

“Missile launched. missile launched. It seems that the missile has been launched from North Korea. Please evacuate to building with strong structure or go to the basement.”

The second alert came in about 12 minutes later:

“Missile passed. Missile passed. A minute ago, the missile seems to have pass the airspace of this area. If you find anything suspicious, please don’t come close to it, report to the police and firefighter directly.”

Prime Minister Abe condemned the launch as a “reckless act.”

Japanese missile defense systems were put on alert, but the missile did not pass close enough for them to engage

“We have fully grasped the movement of the missile immediately after their launch and have been taking every possible effort to protect the lives of people,” he said. “It is a serious and grave threat which impairs the safety and peace of the region.”

Pyongyang’s missile tests are banned under United Nations Security Council resolutions, but that hasn’t stopped current North Korean leader Kim Jong Un from attempting to rapidly develop his country’s nuclear and missile programs.

Analysts say North Korea believes developing a nuclear weapon that can fit atop a missile powerful enough to reach the United States is the only way Pyongyang can deter any US-led efforts at regime change.

The country has long maintained that it will only abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons if the United States ends what Pyongyang calls the American “hostile policy” to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as North Korea is officially known.

“They cross line after line in an effort to say this is the new reality and you should accept it and go easy on us,” said Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for American Progress. “I think that’s a pretty unambiguous signal that they’re no longer going to be restrained by the United States.”

Peaceful pressure

The administration of US President Donald Trump is pursuing what it calls a strategy of “peaceful pressure” to rein in North Korea’s weapons programs. The goal is to put enough diplomatic and economic pressure on Pyongyang in order to push them to the negotiating table.

Last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Trump hinted that the strategy appeared to be working.

Trump mused at a rally in Phoenix that Kim might now respect the United States. At a State Department briefing Wednesday in Washington, Tillerson said the brief respite in the missile launches may have been an example of North Korea demonstrating restraint.

“If Trump and Tillerson believed North Korea backed down, they were sorely mistaken,” Mount said.

“They’re not going to volunteer to do this (give up their weapons). Ever,” he said. “It’s a matter of bargaining. And North Korea has signaled over and over again that the price is really high.”

Another US official says US spy satellites had been observing preparations for a ballistic missile test that would be most likely an intermediate range missile that could reach Guam, the small US territory in the Western Pacific that Pyongyang threatened earlier this month. The official says the assessment is ongoing.

‘Very dangerous’

The launch was also likely a signal to Japan, analysts say, as it comes the day after the Northern Viper military drills ended between the United States and Japan on Hokkaido.

Analysts say it’s likely part of a North Korea strategy to drive a wedge between the US and its two main allies in the region — Japan and South Korea.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga told reporters this launch “could endanger peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region. It is also very dangerous and problematic in terms of the traffic safety of planes and ships.”

The United States is currently participating in its annual 10-day Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercises with South Korea, which began on August 21. Those drills are more logistical and defensive in nature — though Pyongyang sees them as provocative — whereas the Northern Viper drills could be considered more operational, Mount said.

Ulchi Freedom Guardian

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry condemned the North Korean launch as “yet another provocation despite grave messages of warning,” in a statement Tuesday.

“The North Korean regime needs to realize that denuclearization is the only true path to securing its security and economic development and needs to come to the path for nuclearization dialogue instead of conducting its reckless provocation,” the statement said.

Propaganda and provocation: Russia scoffs at Canada’s Baltic war games

 

Photo by Sgt Bern LeBlanc, Canadian Army Public Affairs, 3rd Can Div PA HQ

A high-level Russian official is unimpressed with Canada’s war games in the Baltics.

“There is no other way to interpret what’s going on in the Baltic republics [than] as a very provocative action,” Maria Zakharova, chief spokesperson for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in an interview with CBC News.

“How can that bring more stability to European security?” said Zakharova. “I cannot understand that. Nobody in Russia can understand that.”

Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says “nobody in Russia can understand” how bolstering NATO’s presence in the Baltic border region will make Europe more secure. (Corinne Seminoff/CBC)

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its military support to separatists in eastern Ukraine spooked some Baltic republics and prompted the request for NATO to bolster its presence in the border region.

That led the Trudeau government to commit more than $350 million dollars to send Canadian troops to lead the NATO force in Latvia for three years.

Five other countries — Italy, Spain, Poland, Slovenia and Albania — are also part of Operation Reassurance.

The exercise they’ve been engaged in this past week — their first major one — is essential for testing their battle-readiness.

After five days and nights living out of a mud trench, the end is finally in sight for Maj. Chelsea Braybrook and the rest of Bravo Company.

“We’re in the last phase now,” said Braybrook, a member of the Edmonton-based Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and one of 450 Canadian soldiers stationed here as part of the Canadian-led NATO battle group.

“I’d say we have at most another 48 hours of defensive operations,” said Braybrook.

Repel attack

The aim of the exercise was to repel a conventional enemy attack with armour and infantry units and to hold a forested area about an hour’s drive north of Latvia’s capital.

Every member of Canada’s battle group wears thick camouflage makeup on their faces.

Some hunker down in foxholes, listening to orders come in over the radio in the make-believe battle.

Others are perched nearby inside LAVs — light armoured vehicles — scanning the horizon for movement.

Cpl. James Thoman says the simulation has been intense even though it hasn’t involved using live ammunition.

“It’s real as it can be without rounds flying both ways,” he said.

The enemy in this case is being role-played by their hosts — the Latvian military — and Canadian commanders say the exercise has fine-tuned communications and helped the multinational force work together.

Brig.-Gen. Trevor Cadieu is overseeing the certification exercise for Canadian troops. (Corinne Seminoff/CBC)

“Although this team has been together for a very short period of time, what they have achieved so far is very impressive,” said Brig.-Gen. Trevor Cadieu. As the senior Canadian officer at the certification exercise, it’s his job to confirm to NATO command that the Canadian-led task force is battle-ready.

Not ‘aggressors’

In the past, Russian officials have denied any ambitions to move into the Baltic states and said the expanded NATO presence along their eastern borders has only added to tension in the region.

Zakharova, known for her robust defense of Russian foreign policy, offered CBC News a more extensive explanation of Russia’s opposition.

“We are not spreading all over the world. Why do you regard us as aggressors?” she said.

Russia’s position, she said, is that NATO is wasting money putting troops in the border region when there are more serious common threats at hand.

“We’re watching more and more terrorist attacks take place all over Europe,” said Zakharova.

Western ‘propaganda’

The NATO exercises, though, may pale in comparison to manoeuvres Russia has planned in its eastern region in mid-September.

Whereas NATO’s exercises in three Baltic countries over the past month have featured roughly 5,000 troops, Zapad 2017 — Russia’s war game — is expected to be an order of magnitude larger. There are estimates suggesting as many as 100,000 Russian troops will take part.

Some security analysts have raised red flags that Russia may use the Zapad exercise as a cover to make more territorial gains.

Zakharova calls that more fearmongering. It’s just part of the “western propaganda” machine aimed against Russia, she said.

 

 

Belarus welcomes Latvian military inspectors

 

MINSK, 24 August (BelTA) – Officers of the Latvian army carried out an inspection in Belarus, the press service of the Belarusian Defense Ministry told BelTA.

In line with the Belarus-Latvia agreement on additional trust and security measures a Latvian inspection team visited Belarus.

The inspectors went to see the 11th Independent Mechanized Brigade and evaluated the authenticity of the information Belarus had submitted to the OSCE member states about the personnel, primary weapon systems, and military hardware of the army unit as part of the 2011 Vienna Document on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures.

The inspection confirmed that Belarus unswervingly honors its commitments as part of the agreement.