Thousands of troops are taking part in some of the regions biggest war games on the Baltics’ eastern shores from Nov. 2-7. The NATO-backed Steadfast Jazz exercises involve over 6,000 soldiers from 20 countries, as well as 40 aircraft and 15 vessels.Troops will be training at the Adazi base in Latvia, just north of Riga, and in Poland.
Estonia has sent 134 troops to participate in the exercises; Lithuania has sent 150, while 500 Latvian troops will take take part. The exercises, which are being hailed as the biggest in the region in seven years, are designed to train and test the NATO Response Force in case of an attack.
NATO Response Forces (NRF) is the main military mechanism of the Alliancedesigned for fast military reaction in case of a crisis. Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks spoke of the recent Russian war games - Zapad 2013 - and planes flying near its borders and called for tighter security measures.“Steadfast Jazz is important to us as these are the first exercises where we really train to defend our territory,” he told the Reuters news agency.
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is set to visit Latvia on Nov. 6 for briefings on the exercises. He will meet with Baltic leaders in Riga to discuss key security issues in the region.
“The NATO Response Force is the spearhead of this Alliance: a rapid-reaction group able to defend any ally, deploy anywhere, and deal with any threat. Exercise Steadfast Jazz will make sure that the spearhead is sharp, and ready to use,” said Fogh Rasmussen.