2015 - Week 11 - Letland, Riga

Royal Danish Embassy
T. Kosciuskos 36, LT-01100 Vilnius
Tel: +370 (5) 264 8768
Mob: +370 6995 7760
Fax: +370 (5) 231 2300
The Defence Attaché To
Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania
Newsletter for the Baltics
Week 11
The following information is gathered from open sources, mainly from the Baltic News Service
(BNS), respective defence ministries press releases and websites as well as various
newspapers, etc.
Ex-NATO officer suggests changing Washington Treaty
Former adviser to NATO Secretary General Chris Donnelly, currently in Lithuania, on 12 March
suggested amending the North Atlantic Treaty and activating collective defence not only in
cases of armed attacks: "The changing world situation requires the members of NATO to readdress the Washington Treaty. And it can be brought up to today by simply removing one word
from Article 5: and that word is "armed," he told BNS.
Under the Washington Treaty, NATO countries agree to "an armed attack against one or more
of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all" and that
other member countries would immediately assist the attacked country.
According to Donnelly, such an amendment would allow activating NATO's collective defence in
cases of a "hybrid war" which can manifest itself in cyber attacks or cuts to energy supply.
Several Western politicians have in recent months warned that Russia might try to destabilize
the Baltic states through provocations, which are not considered an armed attack.
United States deploys 3.000 troops and appurtenant equipment to the Baltics
On 9 March, Pentagon announced that the deployment of 3.000 U.S. troops to the Baltic States
had already begun. The Brigade Combat Team includes 3.000 frontline soldiers, helicopters and
armoured vehicles, which is part of a 90 days long exercise under Operation Atlantic Resolve.
U.S. Commanding General John O’Connor later commented that the deployment has the intent
to: “(…) demonstrate resolve to President Putin and Russia that collectively we can come
According to news media, an anonymous source in the Pentagon has further revealed that the
deployed equipment will stay in the Baltic Region after the U.S. Third Infantry Division has left
for home base.
Estonia supports development of battlefield medicine in Ukraine
On 10 March, Estonia is helping Ukraine by teaching its tactical medical instructors. In the
coming few weeks the Estonian National Defence College will conduct the first tactical combat
casualty care course for a couple of dozen Ukraine nationals, who themselves must be able to
provide training in life-saving medicine as instructors in Ukraine, after completing the course in
Estonia. The training costs will be provided by the Estonian Ministry of Defence and the travel
costs by the non-profit organization Free Ukraine.
Russian refuelling aircraft detected near Latvian territorial waters
On 10 March, NATO patrol jets detected a Russian aerial refuelling tanker, Il-78, near Latvian
waters. NATO patrol jets often scramble to intercept Russian military aircrafts, and they last
detected a Russian aircraft on the 27 February, an Il-20 surveillance plane.
Estonian artillery reservists preparing for Hedgehog exercise
On 10 March, in preparation for the large-scale exercise Siil (Hedgehog) to be held in May, more
than 120 reservists have come to the base of the Artillery Battalion of the Estonian defence
forces to hone their military specialist skills. The commander of the Artillery Battalion, Lt. Col.
Kaarel Maesalu said: “In the course of the reservist event we check the battalion’s equipment,
hardware and command posts for readiness and help people make up the lead structure of our
battalion at Siil”. The reservist will start a tactical exercise with conscripts in the area of the old
airfield of Tapa on 11 March, and the meeting will end on 15 March.
Parliament starts ratification of Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian brigade deal
The Seimas of Lithuania on 12 March started the ratification of the agreement on the creation of
a joint Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian military brigade. Following the presentation of the document,
79 Lithuanian lawmakers voted in favour, two were against and one abstained. The final
decision will be made after two more votes.
"The key message is that the Ukrainians are not left alone , that their neighbours, their friends are
with them, that we are in joy and struggle with them", Minister of National Defence Juozas
Olekas said, while presenting the document.
In his words, the key goal of the joint brigade (LITPOLUKRBRIG) is training. This military unit will
be able to take part in international missions mandated by the United Nations Security Council.
Lithuanian Prime Minister: Raising professional soldiers' pay is a "priority"
Algirdas Butkevicius, Lithuanian Prime Minister, has pledged a pay rise for professional soldiers.
He also said the conscription period might be reviewed. In an interview with a news radio on 12
March, Butkevicius said professional troops have not had a pay rise for a long time due to poor
funding of the defence system: "Now funding has improved considerably, and I think that, first of
all, we should be speaking not about the purchase of new weaponry, which is, of course, important
and we are doing that, but about people who are using and will use that weaponry and raising their
pay. Yes, this issue will be brought up and, I think, it is one of the priorities".
Speaking about the plans to restore conscription in Lithuania, Butkevicius said discussions might
as well be held on cutting the conscription period of nine months: "I think we could review the
conscription period, which is nine months now. I believe there is a possibility to spend less time in a
certain type of training. It is a matter of discussion", he said.
Lithuania wants to restore conscription in response to Russia's actions in Ukraine and the
country's growing military activity in the region. The army says the move would allow filling
army units and preparing an army reserve. If approved by the Seimas, around 3.000-3.500 young
men, aged 19-26, would be conscripted every year.
Lithuanian President: Restoring conscription is a "necessity"
As the Seimas of Lithuania is set to discuss the
proposed partial restoration of conscription,
the country's President Dalia Grybauskaite says
it is the only way to bolster the Lithuanian
army in the existing geopolitical situation.
Asked to comment on the prime minister's
recent statements, that part of military
training could last less than nine months, the
president said the timeframe was agreed
during the meeting of the State Defence Council, which was also attended by the prime
minister: "I would like to remind you that it was a unanimous decision of the State Defence Council
and it was based on the Chief of Defence's presentation, including the timeframe and everything
else, and the Prime Minister also signed it. It is a necessity. In the short-term, Lithuania has no other
way to strengthen and form its army, and in the existing geopolitical situation, such considerations
and evasions raise the issue of constitutional responsibility. State leaders and lawmakers have the
constitutional duty to ensure the security and defence of the state," Grybauskaite told journalists
on 12 March.
Vice Minister of National Defence M. Velička and United States’ Congressman J. M. Shimkus
met in Rukla
March 10 Vice Minister of National Defence Marijus Velička met with leader of the Baltic States
Group of the Congress of the United States John M. Shimkus on visit in Lithuania. The officials
discussed the overall security situation in the region, combined U.S.–Lithuanian exercises,
contribution to the training mission and multinational operations at the meeting in Rukla.
“Lithuania appreciates United States’ close and intense cooperation, staunch support and
deployment of troops and equipment for training in Lithuania, in particular in light of the shifting
security environment in the region”, Vice Minister M. Velička said. The Vice Minister also
welcomed the concrete actions of deterrence that the United States took and the deployment
of heavy combat vehicles, including the Abrams tanks and the Bradley infantry fighting vehicles
to Lithuania.
Five American Abrams tanks to be deployed in Lithuania
Five American Abrams tanks and several dozen other vehicles will be deployed in Lithuania, the
Baltic country's Ministry of National Defence confirmed on 9 March: "A company-size unit will be
deployed in Lithuania, consisting of one tank squad and two squads of Stryker armoured fighting
vehicles with combat support units, around 20 vehicles in total, including five Adams tanks".
Just as previous equipment, the new vehicles will be stationed at Lithuanian Duke Vaidotas
Mechanized Infantry Battalion in Rukla, central Lithuania.
"By ending heavy weaponry for training in Lithuania, the United States is demonstrating its strong
commitment to contribute to ensuring security of Lithuania and the Baltic states. This equipment
will give Lithuanian troops an opportunity to learn, train and get ready to act within various types
of allied units – from infantry to tanks", the ministry's Communication and Public Relations
Department said.
The ministry published this information after the largest ever shipment of military equipment
from the United States arrived in the port of Riga, as a part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
Lithuanian President: Denmark is reliable defence partner of Lithuania
President Dalia Grybauskaitė on 3 March met
with members of the Danish Defence
Committee at the Danish Parliament
(Folketing) and members of the Danish
delegation to the NATO Parliamentary
Assembly. The meeting focused on security
situation in the region and Lithuanian-Danish
cooperation in defence and other spheres.
According to the President, Denmark is a
reliable partner of Lithuania - the two nations closely cooperate within international
organisations, in economic and military fields, strengthening Lithuania's and the regional
security. Danish troops have conducted NATO's Air Policing mission in Lithuania four times.
Denmark was the first country with which Lithuania concluded a military cooperation
agreement. It also contributed significantly to developing the armed forces of all Baltic states.
The President and Danish defence officials discussed the current situation in the region and
ways to bolster its economic, energy, military and information security. The President noted that
the Baltic and Nordic countries with the entire EU must stand united in response to the
challenges facing our region: Economic and military pressures, propaganda against Europe and
the West, and cyber-attacks.
Among the other issues discussed at the meeting was the conscription system in Denmark,
which has compulsory military service for 2.000 conscripts every year. The Danish experience in
engaging volunteers in compulsory military service could be useful for Lithuania.
Defence minister Vejonis meets with Canadian Ambassador
On 11 March, Latvian Minister of Defence, Raimonds Vejonis, met with the Canadian ambassador
to Latvia, Alain Hausser. According to the Ministry of Defence, the two discussed further
defence cooperation and joint military exercises. Canada is already actively involved with the
National Armed Forces of Latvia through its engagement in the Baltic Air Policing mission, and
participation in the latest Latvian winter exercise, ‘Ziema’, which took place from 21-27 February.
Latvian CHOD conducts visit to Denmark
National Armed Forces Commander, Raimonds Graube, began his official visit to Denmark on 10
March, to discuss the further implementation of the decisions reached on last year’s NATO
Summit in Wales. During his visit, Graube met with top military officials to discuss regional and
bilateral cooperation, including a strengthened collaboration between the Danish Infantry
Division and the Latvian Infantry Brigade.
The countries traditionally share a close military relationship, especially through the inclusion in
the Danish Division, made up of two Danish units, and one from each of the Baltic States.
On 11 March, Graube continued to the United Kingdom, where he met with British Armed Forces
Commander Mick Houghton to discuss Latvian participation in the British led Joint Rapid
Reaction Force and meet with Latvian soldiers participating in the ‘Wessex Storm 2” exercise.
Latvian politicians divided over proposal to reintroduce conscription
On 9 March, Harmony party representatives announced their wish for restoring mandatory
military service in Latvia. The opposition’s representatives added that a reintroduction of army
conscription is necessary due to the tense geopolitical situation, and that a majority of Harmony
supporters agree on this.
The party’s parliamentary group has furthermore sent a letter to Prime Minister Straujuma,
urging her to engage in the debate.
Straujuma later told news media that the government does not favour the restoration of
conscription and that a professional army is the right solution given the current security climate.
United States bolsters Latvian defence with Abrams and Bradleys
This week, the United States has deployed 6 American M1a2 Abrams tanks and 6 M2A3 Bradley
armoured vehicles to the Latvian military base at Adazi. The deployment is intended to bolster
the security of Latvia and is part of the U.S. operation ‘Atlantic Resolve’. The vehicles arrived in
Riga on Monday, along with the 1st Armour Brigade Team of the 3rd Infantry Division, who will
replace the US Army’s 2nd Cavalry Division for the next three months.
U.S. troops have served on rotational basis in Latvia since spring 2014 in order to boost security
in light of Russian aggression in Ukraine
Latvian President: NATO is still a Latvian priority in defence cooperation
In the wake of European President Jean Claude Juncker’s recent proposal to create a common
European army, President Laimdota Straujuma maintained that NATO is still Latvia’s primary
focus of international defence cooperation. She further added that the creation of an EU army is
a subject of discussion and elaborated that: “It is necessary to assess whether this [project] might
be doubling NATO. There are countries that are not NATO members, but this is certainly not a
matter of the next year or the year after the next. This is an issue of a more distant perspective. As
far as I know, member states have mixed attitudes. For us in Latvia, it is important to be a NATO
member and to provide 2 percent of GDP for NATO's needs".
United States’ tank platoon to be stationed in Estonia
On 14 March, a U.S. tank platoon armed with Abrams tanks and two airborne platoons of the
U.S. Army are scheduled to arrive at the Tapa base in North-eastern Estonia. At the end of this
week they will take part in a training exercise with the Estonian defence forces. Support
equipment and other vehicles are also about to arrive at Tapa, where the Army personnel will
replace the soldiers of the U.S. 2nd Cavalry Regiment stationed at the base now. The U.S. Army
personnel will also take part in the Siil 2015 (Hedgehog 2015) large scale exercise.
Estonian conscript injured in live-fire exercise
On 10 March, a conscript of the
antitank company of the Estonian 1st
Infantry Brigade sustained an injury
during a live-fire exercise in the
territory of the abandoned Sirgala
quarry. The accident happened in the
course of a three-day live-fire camp of
an antitank squad, where a MG3
conscript’s life is not in danger, and an investigation has been opened by the military police.
Spanish fighter jets make low altitude flights over Estonia
On 8 March, Spanish fighter jets performing the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission from the air
base of Amari in North-western Estonia, performed low altitude flights over Estonia, after their
flypast over the Independence Day parade on 24 February was cancelled, due to bad weather.
The fighter jets were to fly over several Estonian cities including Tallinn, Parnu, Kuresaare,
Haapsalu, Tartu and Viljandi.
NATO team collects background information to set up HQ in Estonia
On 7 March, a NATO preparation team, which were on a visit in Estonia, met with
representatives of different areas of the defence forces to give clearer contours to NATO’s
command element plans. The task of the command elements to be set up is to support
collective defence planning and carrying out exercises, as well as quickly sending units to the
Baltic countries if necessary. The precise structure of command elements will be composed of
Estonian and allied personnel, and the HQ is to be located on the territory of the defence forces
general HQs and use the existing infrastructure.
Newsletter was prepared by Katja Nørgaard Hansen (intern, Tallinn), Emil Bargmann Madsen
(intern, Riga) & Morten Grandahl (intern, Vilnius)