2015 - Week 12 - 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 12
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.
Latvia and Lithuania more vulnerable says Estonian President
In an interview with Latvian Television on Tuesday, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves,
stated that by not spending more than 2 pct. of GDP on defence, as in Estonia, Lithuania and
Latvia are comparatively more vulnerable. He further added that the Baltics demands too much
of NATO by asking for more support than they themselves contribute with. He stressed that
''In order to accommodate allied soldiers, the conditions and infrastructure to accommodate
them must be in place. Due to this, we will be spending more than the required two percent of
GDP this year to construct modern barracks. We must be able to accommodate allied soldiers,''
and emphasized that real Baltic cooperation requires spending money, time, and energy, and
not just signing joint declarations.
NATO aircraft scrambled over 11 Russian planes
On late evening of 17 March Italy’s fighter aircraft serving in the NATO Baltic Air Policing
mission were scrambled from the Siauliai air base to escort 11 Russian warplanes flying above
the Baltic Sea from mainland Russia to its Kaliningrad region.
They identified two An-26 transport airplanes, one An-12 transport airplane and an additional
group of eight aircrafts including Su – 27 and Su – 34 fighter aircraft, reported Lithuanian
Defence Ministry’s Public Relations Division.
Russia withdrawing from prisoner transfer agreement with Estonia
On 20 March the Russian Interfax news agency said that Russia is set to withdraw from the
agreement on the exchange of prisoners with Estonia signed in Tallinn in 2002. The Russian
government has made a proposal to President Vladimir Putin to notify Estonia about it, which
was published on the Russian information portal of official announcements.
Security at Vilnius train station stepped up
On 19 March security stepped at Vilnius Train Station in
Lithuania in response to information that Russian army
conscripts might be carried on a train to the Russian
region of Kaliningrad via Lithuania.
Defence Minister Juozas Olekas told journalists that
following inspection, it turned out that they were naval
college students and not conscripts. They were allowed
to continue their journey.
Chairmen of the Nordic and Baltic countries met in Kiev
In week 12 Nordic and Baltic Parliamentary Speakers met in Kiev.
Lithuanian Parliamentary Speaker Loreta Grauziniene met with Oleksandr Turchynov, secretary
of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, and addressed the upcoming exercise of
Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian troops in Ukraine. After her visit to Ukraine Grauziniene said
that Ukraine was “were asking for military assistance, i. e., weaponry, on all levels, leaders of
parliamentary groups also joined the request. (They asked for) defence weapons, they
emphasized that they are talking about weapons needed for defence.”
UN Security Council to hold Lithuania-initiated Crimea
On 19 March the UN Security Council is holding a closeddoor meeting on Crimea, initiated by Lithuania. Russia,
which annexed the Ukrainian region a year ago, as well as
China, boycotted the meeting.
Leader of Crimean Tatars Mustafa Dzemilev has also been
invited to the meeting. The Tatars were against Crimea's
incorporation into Russia.
Russian snap exercises bring military units close to Latvian territory
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to order a large scale snap exercise, involving both
navy, army, and air force units, has resulted in a hitherto unprecedented number of Russian
military units in the vicinity of Latvian territorial borders. From Monday to Wednesday, the
Latvian Armed Forces and participants of the Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission observed a large
number of both Russian military aircrafts and navy vessels. So far, three ‘Kilo’-class submarines,
a number of ‘Kashtan’- class submarine-support vessels and a hydrographic survey ship has
been spotted close to Latvia’s territorial waters. Defence Minister Raimonds Vejonis has
commented that: “I remind - the aim of our defence development is prevention. Latvian, Baltic,
and NATO defence capacity must be strong and obvious enough in order to eliminate the
slightest illusion that an aggressor could possibly succeed”.
Russia initiates large scale military exercise in the Baltic Region
Week 12 several units of the large Russian Baltic Fleet and parts of Russia’s Southern Military
District of the Russian Armed Forces participate in a large scale military exercise. The exercise
was initiated in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision, Monday, to put the
Russian Northern Fleet on full alert.
According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, the exercise involves 38,000 soldiers, 3,360 units
of military equipment, 41 navy ships, 15 submarines, and 110 airplanes and helicopters. The main
object of the exercise is allegedly to test communications and command systems.
NATO SOF exercise held in Lithuania
In March an exercise for leadership for NATO Special
Operations Forces was held in Vilnius and addressed the
issue that the geopolitical environment and shifting
military tactics are affecting operational principles and
procedures of NATO forces.
The exercise arranged by the NATO Special Operations
Headquarters focused on interoperability between the
NATO Response Force, national and allied special operations units.
NATO general signed deal with Lithuania on command
centres’ status
On 20 March NATO Supreme Allied Commander
Transformation Gen Jean-Paul Palomeros has signed the
NATO-Lithuanian agreement on the legal status of NATO
command and control centre in Lithuania.
Earlier, the agreement was signed on behalf of Lithuania by
Defence Minister Juozas Olekas and Supreme Allied
Commander Europe Gen Philip M. Breedlove.
Signed by all parties, the agreement will need the Seimas of Lithuania's ratification.
International Conference on Security and Defence
Industries held in Vilnius
On 20 March the International Conference on
Security and Defence Industries took place at the
General Jonas Zemaitis Military Academy of
Representatives of Lithuanian public and NATO
authorities, enterprise and non-governmental
organisations attended the event that was arranged by the Lithuanian Defence and Security
Industries Association. The opening address was delivered by the Defence Minister Juozas
Conscription ratified by the Parliament
On 19 March Lithuanian Parliament approved as a matter of urgency the draft amendment to
the law on the principal structure of the Lithuanian Armed Forces in 2015-2020 and the limit
numbers of servicemen which provides for reinstatement of the 9-month Continuous
Mandatory Initial Military Service as of this year.
The first draft is planned to be conducted in the second semester of this year, 3 to 3.5 thousand
draftees will be called up annually. The conscription into the 9-month Continuous Mandatory
Initial Military Service is planned to be reinstated for 5 years.
Those volunteering will be the first ones to be enrolled. Only if a sufficient number of
volunteers does not turn out, the draft will be conducted on a mandatory basis from the
military draftee record for the current year.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius has suggested paying EUR 200 per month to
future conscripts in addition to already-planned EUR 38 to be paid for daily needs. Details are to
be worked out yet.
Parliament defined work in case of war
On 19 March Lithuanian Parliament agreed on the way it will work in case of war, mobilization
and a state of emergency by adopting amendments to the Statute of the Seimas and several
laws. The changes would give more powers to the Board of the Seimas in case of a state of
emergency, war or mobilization. It would have the possibility to swiftly call meetings and
would also have more powers when arranging the parliament's work. Under extreme
conditions, lawmakers would be called to a session or sitting in 4 hours.
There would also be safeguards to prevent problems related to the adoption of Seimas
decisions on declaring a state of war and mobilization and to avoid unnecessary disputes. The
main parliamentary committee for discussing a specific bill would not be appointed in such
cases, there would be no adjournments and lawmakers' proposal would not be deliberated.
Lithuanian police search homes as part of probes into anti-Constitutional groups
On 19 March Lithuanian law-enforcement officers conducted searches in homes of a few
individuals in the framework of an investigation into operations of anti-Constitutional groups,
confirmed the Police Department. The searches were carried out in homes open supporters of
Russian policies, Milda Bartasiunaite and Giedrius Grabauskas.
Lithuania’s Criminal Code envisages between three to ten years in prison for those who “who
created organizations or armed groups with the aim of unlawfully altering the constitutional
system of the State of Lithuania, making an attempt against its independence, infringing upon
territorial integrity or who participated in the activities of such organisations or groups.”
Lithuania to set up defence adviser posts at embassies
On 18 March Lithuanian Government approved the amendments on the establishment of
positions of defence adviser at Lithuanian Embassies abroad.
Under the plan, such advisers will start working at the Lithuanian Embassies in Ukraine and the
Currently, defence advisers only work in international organizations, while embassies have
defence attachés.
Germany to send soldiers for training in Lithuania
On 17 March Deputy Commander of the German Army Lt
Gen Jorg Vollmer confirmed at a meeting with Defence
Minister Juozas Olekas that Germany plans sending
rotating forces and military materiel for combined training
in Lithuania this year. The meeting officials also discussed
issues of regional security, the NFIU to be established in
Lithuania, and acquisition of weaponry.
Germany will deploy a rotating company with equipment
in Lithuania in April-July that will join international Exercise Iron Wolf. Additional companies will
be sent to exercises held in July and November. The total of 500 German military is expected to
visit Lithuania this year. Germany also plans contributing soldiers to the NFIUs.
US rotation shifted in Lithuania
Last week a new shift of rotating US forces in the Baltic
States arrived to Lithuania for combined training with
military personnel of the Lithuanian Armed Forces.
Troops of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team,
3rd Infantry Division, US Army, are bringing M1A2
Abrams battle tanks and other heavy and logistic
A unit of the size of a company in the US Army with
support units, roughly 20 vehicles in total, including five M1A2 Abrams tanks, will be deployed
in Lithuania. The incoming shift includes roughly 150 members. They will arrive from their
permanent stations at Fort Stewart, Georgia, United States, and at Vilseck, Germany.
Frequent military exercises in Latvia scheduled
this year
On 20 March the Latvian Ministry of Defence
indicated that Latvia will host a large number of
military exercises throughout 2015. According to
the ministry, this year’s exercises started off
already in February with a number of NATO
partner countries participating, and similar NATO
exercises have been scheduled until the end of
fall. The aim of the drills is to enhance NATO combat readiness and emergency response, which
means, Latvia will continuously host large numbers of NATO soldier and equipment. For
instance, 20-23 March will be dedicated to a number of exercises involving Black Hawk
helicopters and artillery equipment.
Commenting on the context of these exercises, the Latvian Minister of Defence mentioned
similar Russian exercises: Actually, we are ready for any challenges, and in that respect it would
be important not to yield to hysteria that sometimes prevails on social media, that something is
going on in Russia and we are doing nothing.”
State Secretary participates in conference on Latvian NATO membership
On 19 March State Secretary of the Latvian Ministry of Defence, Janis Sarts, participated in the
conference “Latvia’s NATO Membership and the Benefits for the Society and Economy”. Sarts
was a keynote speaker in the panel discussion on Latvia’s military and defence industry, where
he discussed the prospects of improving export possibilities and attract international investors.
The conference brought together experts and government officials from Latvia, Estonia and
Lithuania to discuss the development of the Baltic defence industry and how to increase its
capacity on an international level.
Latvian Ministry of Defence to invest in anti-aircraft systems
On 18 March Defence Minister Raimonds Vejonis informed that, because one of the primary
defence challenges for the Latvian Armed Forces is the detection and elimination of low flying
aerial drones and helicopters, the Ministry of Defence has decided to invest in new anti-aircraft
systems, including weaponry.
According to Vejonis, the ministry is still in the process of analysing the requirements of
possible new systems, but are “(…) planning on concluding talks with companies and sign
contract on weapons deliveries this year.” He further added that the development of anti-air
defences is a program spanning several years, and that several other areas are in need of
Latvia can host a permanent unit of 600 NATO soldiers at the moment
Minister of Defence, Raimonds Vejonis said that Latvia currently has the capacity to host a
permanent unit of 600 NATO soldiers. “We could accommodate more, but we need to develop
the necessary infrastructure. I would like to emphasize that our goal is not to station as many
soldiers as possible on our territory. If a crises arises, Latvia must be ready to host the
necessary number of troops on its territory”, said Vejonis. The minister further commented
that both the US and other NATO partners might decide to send troops to be permanently
stationed in Latvia, but emphasised that further decisions to strengthen NATO’s eastern flank,
and station soldiers in the Baltics, will be made during the upcoming meeting of NATO defence
ministers set in June 2015.
US Army helicopters flew over Parnu, Estonia
On 20 March helicopters of the US Army made flyovers
over the south western city of Parnu, and US military
personnel headed to their home base in Germany
showed their hardware and weapons in Parnu and two
other Estonian towns Turi and Paide. The company
ended their rotation in Estonia on Saturday as part of
Operation Atlantic Resolve, and started moving
towards their home base Vilseck, Germany by land from
Tapa. They moved in two convoys consisting altogether of more than 40 vehicles, including
some 20 Stryker armoured fighting vehicles.
14 US Fighters to take part in air force exercise in Estonia
On 19 March the first US fighter aircraft will land at Amari air base. The aircraft are to take part
in the nearly month-long joint air force exercise of Estonia and the United States taking place in
the airspace of Estonia. The exercise was launched on 20 March at 11 a.m. When ground targets
at the Estonian Defence Forces central training ground will be destroyed from the air, live
ammunition is to be used for the first time since Estonia regained its independence. The live-fire
exercise is expected to take part at the central training ground on 24 and 25 March.
Putin submitted treaties on border with Estonia to parliament for ratification
On 19 March Russian President Putin has submitted to the State Duma for ratification of the
treaties between Russia and Estonia on the Russian-Estonian state border and the division of
sea in the Gulfs of Narva and Finland. Estonian Foreign Minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus said
that it is a necessary step for getting the ratification of border treaties to move forward. "It is a
process with multiple stages," she added. She underlined that the treaties entering into force
are in the interest of both states. Estonia's former foreign minister Urmas Paet and his Russian
counterpart Sergei Lavrov signed the treaties on the land and maritime borders between the
two countries in Moscow on 18 February 2014.
Secretary of Defence invites unit of German land force to train in
On 18 March Secretary General of the Estonian Defence Ministry
Mikk Marran met with Deputy Inspector of German armed forces
Lt Gen Jorg Vollmer to discuss the possibilities of strengthening
cooperation between the two countries. Marran invited a unit of
the German land forces to train in Estonia. Estonia is ready to offer
permanent training opportunities in addition to the U.S. land forces
also to other company-sized units. “The Estonian government has
adopted a decision to allocate 40 million euros in the next five
years to improve the living and training conditions of the allies'
units. We hope that companies of the German land force will also
train here,” Marran said.
Newsletter was prepared by Aistė Aurelija Azbytė-Slott, Katja Nørgaard Hansen (intern, Tallinn),
Emil Bargmann Madsen (intern, Riga).