NATO states to start major naval drills in Baltic Sea
Scores of vessels and aircraft from 17 countries are set to take part in major US-led NATO naval drills in the Baltic Sea.
The multinational maritime exercise of BALTOPS 2015 will start on June 5 and run until June 20.
The exercise will feature anti-submarine warfare, air defense, intercepting suspect vessels and amphibious landings, according to NATO’s website
This year’s drills involve a total of 49 ships, 61 aircraft, one submarine, and a combined amphibious landing force of 700 troops.
A total number of 5,600 troops will take part in the exercise.
“This exercise represents an important opportunity for our forces, as allies and partners, to enhance our ability to work together and strengthen capabilities required to maintain regional security,” said the commander of Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO.
This exercise will be conducted in a joint environment, Vice Admiral James Foggo III added.
In addition to 14 NATO states, Finland, Georgia and Sweden will also take part in this year’s exercise.
The drills are to start in the Polish port of Gdynia and will then move out to the Baltic Sea and finally conclude in the German port of Kiel.
The BALTOPS exercise has been held annually since 1971.
The NATO drills come against the backdrop of Russia’s large-scale military presence in the Baltic Sea.
Meanwhile, the US has also intensified its military presence in the Eastern Europe following the crisis in Ukraine.
Back In March, a convoy of US military vehicles toured through Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, the Czech Republic to Germany to show off US and NATO forces’ military presence in the region.
Since the start of Russia-West tension over the crisis in east Ukraine last year, NATO forces have stepped up military exercises along the Russian border, including in the Baltic States.
The West accuses Moscow of supporting pro-Russian forces in the Ukrainian conflict in country’s eastern Donetsk and Lugansk Regions.
Russia, however, denies the allegation.