Tag: Tallinn

Estonia: Kaitseliit to hold exercise with allies over weekend

NATO battle group led by the British in Estonia

TALLINN, Sep 29, BNS – A training event of the South national defense district of Estonia’s Kaitseliit (Defense League) volunteer corps that began on Monday will on Saturday transform into a large scale exercise titled Sibul (Onion) that will be joined by personnel from the NATO battle group stationed in Estonia.

On the first day of the exercise the staff and company and platoon commanders assembled at the defense forces’ central training ground. The next to arrive were squad commanders and specialists, whereas on Thursday the rest of the personnel arrived at the central training ground, spokespeople for Kaitseliit said.

The assembly part ends on Friday, and on Saturday the training exercise will start in the course of which Kaitseliit volunteers from South Estonia will hone their skills in conventional warfare with the NATO battle group stationed in Estonia.

According to the scenario of the exercise, Kaitseliit’s battle and logistics companies will conduct defensive activities and will be attacked by light infantry companies supported by the NATO battle group.

Lt. Col. Kalle Kohler, head of the Tartu region of Kaitseliit and commanding officer of the exercise, said that the exercise summarizes the three-year training cycle of the Kaitseliit regions of South Estonia and will prepare staffs and units for the Siil (Hedgehog) large-scale exercise of the defense forces to take place next spring.

In addition it offers an excellent opportunity to rehearse cooperation with the NATO combat units stationed in Estonia.

 

Estonian, Finnish Defence Ministers speak about Zapad, defense cooperation

TALLINN, Sep 13, BNS – Estonian Minister of Defense Juri Luik and his Finnish counterpart Jussi Niinisto during their meeting in Helsinki on Wednesday discussed defense cooperation and matters related to the Zapad joint large scale military exercise of Russia and Belarus.

Luik and Niinisto talked about the regional security situation in view of the Zapad large scale exercise and bilateral defense cooperation, spokespeople for the Estonian Defense Ministry said.

Also discussed was defense cooperation within the European Union, which has been supported also by Finland.

During an informal meeting of EU defense ministers in Tallinn last week, the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the Estonian minister of defense both expressed hope that important decisions concerning EU defense cooperation will be reached already by the end of this year.

Finland is positively minded about EU defense cooperation and is waiting for practical solutions.

Luik also visited the Hietaniemi cemetery in Helsinki and laid wreaths to honor fallen soldiers.

 

French Defense Minister in Tallinn: Zapad is ”strategy of intimidation”

French Defense Minister Florence Parly

French Defense Minister Florence Parly on Thursday condemned a major upcoming Russian military exercise Zapad 2017 on the borders of the EU and NATO as a deliberate “strategy of intimidation”.

The Zapad 2017 exercise which Russia will hold from next week in Belarus and its western exclave of Kaliningrad has caused alarm in the Baltic states and Poland and drawn criticism from the US and NATO for a lack of transparency.

Russia has said the exercises will involve about 12,700 Russian and Belarusian troops and are “purely defensive” in nature — an assessment rejected by many Western observers.

Parly, speaking at a gathering of EU foreign ministers in Tallinn, said it was clear Moscow was pursuing a “deliberate, intentional” strategy of showing off its military might.

“It is particularly important in this context that we reaffirm our presence in the face of this expression and this demonstration the Russians are making which is a strategy of intimidation — we must not hide that fact,” she said.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said it was clear that Zapad was in fact about showing off Russian force.

“It is undisputed that we see a demonstration of capabilities and power of the Russians. Anyone who doubts that only has to look at the high numbers of the participating forces in the Zapad exercise: more than 100,000,” she said.

To counter growing Russian assertiveness in recent years, particularly since the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, NATO has stationed about 4,000 troops in the three Baltic countries and Poland.
Parly said the deployment sent a clear signal that the Baltic states and Poland were covered by the NATO alliance.

AFP – Baltic News Service.

Germany disputes size of Russian wargames, predicts 100,000 troops

FILE PHOTO: German German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

TALLINN (Reuters) – Germany said on Thursday that Russia was planning to send over 100,000 troops to war games on NATO’s eastern flank this month, disputing Moscow’s version that only 13,000 Russian and Belarussian servicemen would participate.

The Sept. 14-20 exercises known as Zapad, or “West” in Belarus, the Baltic Sea, western Russia and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, are stirring unease in NATO despite Moscow’s assurances troops would rehearse a purely defensive scenario.

“It is undisputed that we are seeing a demonstration of capabilities and power of the Russians,” German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen told reporters at an EU defense ministers’ meeting in Tallinn.

“Anyone who doubts that only has to look at the high numbers of participating forces in the Zapad exercise: more than one hundred thousand,” she said in a joint news conference with her French counterpart Florence Parly.

While Baltic nations have voiced concerns about a bigger-than-reported exercise and while NATO’s secretary-general expects more than 13,000 troops, Von der Leyen’s remarks are the first time a top Western politician has called out Russia publicly on what NATO sees as the true size of the war games.

Such numbers would be legal under international treaties on war games, but would require inviting international observers.

With less than 13,000 troops, international observation of the drills is not mandatory, Russia says.

“DEMONSTRATION OF FORCE”?

An exercises on that scale is one of NATO’s most pressing concerns. France, for one, believes the war games are no simple military drill, even though Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin told Western military attaches in Moscow in August the West had nothing to fear.

Russia accuses NATO of building up forces on its frontiers in a manner reminiscent of the Cold War. But NATO says it is protecting the interests of member states bordering Russia who are troubled by Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and links to pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Previous large-scale exercises in 2013 employed special forces training, longer-range missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles that were later used in the Crimea annexation and in actions in eastern Ukraine and Syria, NATO diplomats said.

“Russia has a global strategy of a visible, deliberate demonstration of force,” Parly said before heading to meet French troops in Estonia as part of NATO’s deployment of deterrent forces in the Baltics and Poland.

“They have a strategy of intimidation,” Parly said, warning that any attack on a Baltic country or Poland by Russia would be considered an attack on all of the U.S.-led NATO alliance.

Reporting by Robin Emmott; editing by Ralph Boulton

 

Estonia yet to receive an invitation from Russia to observe Zapad

Russian Embassy, Tallinn, Estonia

Estonia has not received an invitation from Russia to observe Zapad, a large-scale joint Russian-Belarusian military exercise to take place in September. Russian authorities, however, will present the exercises to military attaches accredited to other countries’ diplomatic missions in Moscow at a separate event.

“Military attaches accredited to Moscow have been invited to attend an event at Luga Training Camp on Sept. 18-19, in the course of which Russia will present the Zapad joint military exercise,” Ministry of Defence spokesperson Susan Lilleväli told BNS on Wednesday. “The Estonian defense attaches are ready to take part in the event.”

The joint Russian-Belarusian military exercise will be held in the territory of both countries from Sept. 14-20. The exercise has sparked concern in other countries as, in similar exercises in 2009 and 2013, Russia, among other things, allegedly rehearsed an attack on its neighbors.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in mid-July that, “based on previous experiences related to previous exercises, we have every reason to believe that substantially more troops are participating than the official reported numbers.” He encouraged Russia to allow NATO observers to monitor the maneuvers.

Minister of Defence Jüri Luik has expressed the same concern, telling weekly Maaleht in July that Russia should declare the exercise on the basis of the Vienna Document, according to which any exercise involving more than 9,000 participants should be declared. Russia has stated that 13,000 troops will be participating in the September exercise.

Belarus has sent invitations to Estonia and other countries, which Estonia has already chosen to accept, to observe the exercise on its territory. It has not offered any details, however.

 

NATO jets in Baltics scrambled 8 times last week to escort Russian aircraft

Ejército del Aire F/A-18C. 5 Spanish Air Force F/A-18Cs make up the Baltic Air Policing element in Estonia, based in Ämari as of 1 May 2017.

VILNIUS – NATO fighter jets serving in the Baltic air policing mission were scrambled eight times last week to intercept Russian military aircraft flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said on Monday.

The ministry said that a total of 21 Russian planes were intercepted, around half of which were fighter jets, while the NATO jets also identified several transport and passenger planes over the Baltic Sea.
Most of the Russian aircraft had their automatic transponders switched off, the statement said.

The biggest number of scrambles took place last Thursday, when the alliance’s jets took off three times in total and intercepted ten aircraft.

Polish Air Force F-16C Block 52+ Fighters have been based at Based in Siauliai in Lithuania since May 1 2017.

Estonia: NATO ships arrive in Tallinn for weekend

The Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) arrived in Tallinn for a scheduled port visit over the weekend to to replenish the ship’s supplies and prepare for upcoming exercises.

During the visit the vessels are to make preparations for returning to sea and will give members of the crew the chance to rest for a few days, military spokespeople in Tallinn said. After the visit the NATO ships will remain in Estonia to carry out several exercises and be prepared for the upcoming mine clearance operation.

“The presence of NATO naval units and the clearance of World War era mines will make Estonian waterways safer for us all,” Cmdr. Peeter Ivask, commander of the fleet of the Estonian Navy, said.
Head of the SNMCMG1 Lt. Capt. Gvido Laudups on Friday also visited the headquarters of the Estonian defense forces and the NATO command element and met with Meelis Oidsalu, deputy secretary general of the Defense Ministry for defense planning.

As of June 29, SNMCMG1 is headed by Latvian Lt. Capt. Gvido Laudups, who took over the position from Estonian Cmdr. Johan-Elias Seljamaa of the Estonian Navy. The flagship of the group is the Latvian Navy’s support vessel LVNS Virsaitis. The Estonian minehunter Sakala is also part of the international unit this half-year.

 

US may deploy 7 fighter-jets in Lithuania during Zapad drills – president

Pilots with the 13th and 14th Fighter Squadrons fly alongside a KC-135 Stratotanker (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Deana Heitzman)

VILNIUS, Jul 31, BNS – The United States may station seven fighter-jets in Lithuania for the time of the large-scale Russian-Belarusian war games Zapad 2017 this fall, President Dalia Grybauskaite said in Tallinn on Monday.

“We expect as many as seven jets, almost double in the nearest future,” Grybauskaite told Lithuanian journalists during the meeting of her Baltic counterparts with US Vice-President Mike Pence in the Estonian capital.

US fighter-jets should arrive in Lithuania in late August or early September for the NATO air-policing mission.

The NATO air-policing mission is currently conducted from Lithuania and Estonia by four fighter-jets in each country.

Grybauskaite said the Baltic states were happy with the US guarantees that go beyond words.
In her words, more US troops and equipment will be deployed in Lithuania during Zapad 2017.

Officials in Lithuania are mainly concerned over the actual number of troops involved in the exercise and the scenario or training.

The US already increased the presence of its air-policing jets in Lithuania in early 2014 in response to Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

 

Pence and Estonian PM discuss deploying the Patriot anti-missile defence system

The vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, and the Estonian prime minister, Jüri Ratas, discussed the possibility of deploying the Patriot anti-missile defence system in Estonia.

Ratas, having met Pence, who was visiting the tiny Nordic NATO member from 30-31 July, told the main news programme of the Estonian public broadcasting that he discussed the deployment of the Patriot anti-missile system, but there were no talks about a potential date when the system would be deployed.

“We discussed it today,” Ratas said, replying to a reporter’s question about the defence system. “We didn’t discuss specifically when it would happen,” he added.

“The main messages from both sides were that both Estonia and the United States are active allies in NATO,” Ratas told the public broadcasting.

“We also discussed the [Russian] military exercise to take place at the Estonian border – Zapad – and how Estonia, the United States and NATO monitor it and exchange information,” Ratas added.

Increased cooperation in cyber security

The two leaders also discussed opportunities for increased cooperation in the digital field and cyber security. Pence praised Estonia as a model for innovation and the use of technology to develop solutions for global economic, security and social challenges, and he thanked the country for hosting the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn.

After meeting with the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in Tallinn on 31 July, the US vice president again offered reassurances.

“Under President Donald Trump, the United States stands firmly behind our Article 5 pledge of mutual defence – an attack on one of us is an attack on us all,” Pence told reporters.

In Tallinn, he also met allied troops from France, the UK and the US that are stationed in Estonia.

 

Vice president: U.S. stands with, will always stand with Baltic states

The President of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid (L), with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

TALLINN- The United States stands now and will always stand with the Baltic countries and their peoples, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said in Tallinn on Monday.

“It is my great privilege to be here today to bring you a very simple message from the President of the United States of America Donald Trump,” Pence said at a joint press conference with the heads of state of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

“The president sent me here to say: we are with you. We stand with the people and nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. And we always will,” the vice president said.

“Under president Donald Trump, America rejects any attempt to use force, threats, intimidation or malign influence on the Baltics states or against any of our treaty allies,” Pence said.

Speaking about NATO in a broader context, the vice president said that the biggest danger is Russian aggression and a strong and united NATO is more necessary today than at any point since the collapse of communism a quarter of a century ago.

“And no threat looms larger today than the specter of aggression from your unpredictable neighbor to the east,” Pence said.

“At this very moment Russia continues to seek to redraw international borders by force, undermine democracies of sovereign nations and divide the free nations of Europe, one against the other,” the vice president added.

Pence emphasized that Russia’s decision by September 1 to send 755 employees of U.S. diplomatic missions out of the country “will not deter the commitment of the United States of America to our security, the security of our allies and the security of freedom loving nations throughout the world.”

“Under President Donald Trump the U.S. stands firmly behind our Article 5 pledge of mutual defense — that an attack on one of us is an attack on all,” the vice president said.

“Today the bond between the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania — is strong. And under President Donald Trump and with the leadership of these presidents gathered here I know our bond will only grow stronger as time goes on,” Pence said.

 

Mike Pence in Estonia, to support NATO, Ukraine

US Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence wave as they disembark their plane after arriving at the airport in Tallinn, Estonia, on July 30, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / RAIGO PAJULA

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is today on his way to Estonia to begin a visit to three countries that have expressed concerns about Russia’s intentions in their regions.

Pence arrived in Tallinn on July 30, and will make subsequent stops in Georgia and Montenegro.

Estonia and Montenegro are members of NATO, while Georgia has expressed hopes of joining the Western alliance.
Along with underscoring the U.S. commitment to the three nations’ security, Pence also will likely express support for U.S. trade and investment with the countries, U.S. administration officials said.

The officials added that Pence also will also discuss the situation in Ukraine.

While in Estonia, Pence will meet with Prime Minister Juri Ratas as well as with leaders of Latvia and Lithuania.
In Georgia starting on July 31, officials said Pence will highlight U.S. support for the Caucasus nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Georgia has seen Russian encroachment on its territory. In 2008, Russia’s army invaded Georgia and seized control of two of Georgia’s breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili said on July 27 that Pence’s visit will demonstrate that the United States continues to support Georgia in building a stronger military force.

Margvelashvili said the Georgian army will start two weeks of exercises with the United States and other partner countries on July 30, the day before Pence’s visit to Tbilisi. Pence is scheduled to meet with U.S. troops.

“The vice president’s presence here is definitely showing that this is not only about military exercises, but it is also showing unification with our values, with our foreign policy targets, and showing a clear message that we are together,” Margvelashvili said.
On the last stop, Pence will welcome NATO’s newest member with his stop in Montenegro, which only joined the alliance in June.
On August 2, he will attend the Adriatic Charter Summit in Podgorica. U.S. officials said.

Pence will highlight the U.S. commitment to the Western Balkans and stress the need for good governance, political reforms, and rule of law in the region.

The leaders of Albania, Bosnia -Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia are also scheduled to attend the summit.

Source: New Europe.