RIGA - The annual international Baltic Sea naval forces exercise ‘Baltops 2010’ gets under way this weekend, with some of the activity touching on the territorial waters of Latvia, reports news agency LETA. The main part of the exercise is planned to take place in and off Varve County, Ventspils Region, and local residents will also be able to watch the exercises.
On June 9 and 10, about 100 various military transport vehicles will be unloaded there from the U.S. ship ‘Obregon,’ from where they will proceed to the Home Guard training grounds ‘Medni-3.’ President Valdis Zatlers is also expected to attend this event.
Minister of Defense Imants Liegis (Civic Union) told a press conference on June 2 that this would be a very complicated exercise, but it would contribute greatly to improving combat skills of the Latvian soldiers and professionalism of the Home Guard.
More than 3,000 troops from the Navy, Air Force and special operations units of the United States, Belgium, Estonia, Denmark, France, Russia, Latvia, Great Britain, Lithuania, Poland, Finland, Germany and Sweden will take part in the exercise, as well as 36 ships, two submarines and several dozen military transport vehicles. The exercise will take place in all three Baltic countries.
National Armed Forces Commander, Major General Juris Maklakovs, said that a ship with a crew of about 120 would represent Russia, an observer state. Commenting on Russia’s participation in the exercise, Liegis said that NATO was looking for ways to encourage practical cooperation with Russia.
Latvia will be represented by the mine-laying squadron BALTRON flotilla ship ‘Imanta,’ approximately 200 Home Guards and soldiers from the Infantry Brigade and other Armed Forces’ units, as well as representatives from the Defense Ministry, Customs Office, Emergency Medical Services, Transport Ministry, State Police, State Border Guard and State Fire and Rescue Service.
During the exercise, NATO member states and partner countries under the ‘Partnership for Peace’ program will not only improve mutual cooperation and compatibility, but also navigational skills, search and rescue operations, and minesweeping, thus improving the safety of shipping lanes in the Baltic Sea.