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International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Wednesday, 20.06.2018, 04:51

Latvia to be the only NATO member to send additional observation mission to Zapad exercise

BC, Riga, 12.09.2017.Print version

Latvia is the only NATO member state sending an additional observation mission to the upcoming Zapad 2017 military exercise, Defense Minister Raimonds Bergmanis (Greens/Farmers) told journalists yesterday, cites LETA.


Latvia has expressed a wish to send additional monitors to the drills Russia is staging together with Belarus, and the Belarusian side has granted its permission.


Bergmanis indicated, however, that what Belarus allows to observe will become clear only during the exercise but that Latvia expects Belarus to comply with the agreement. “We are very grateful to be able to go on this additional observation visit,” the minister said.


“We expect that obligations will be met under the agreement. It is hard for me to tell at this moment what this visit will be like, but I am very glad that we are the only NATO country to make such an additional observation visit, and this is an opportunity to learn more about transparency and reduce the risks as a result,” the defense minister said.


General James Everard, NATO's Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, who is currently visiting Latvia, told journalists that NATO is closely following this exercise and would be ready for any unexpected turn, especially given the potential scope of the drills and lack of transparency. General said that Belarus and Russia are entitled to hold such maneuvers, but that this particular exercise will involve extremely large Russian forces.


General Everard believes that Russia uses this exercise to send a political message and test new military equipment and technology, but he sees “no immediate military threat to NATO”.


The two officials informed that the NATO-led exercises Steadfast Pyramid 2017 and Steadfast Pinnacle 2017 got under way in Riga this week with the participation of more than 40 senior and highest-ranking officers from NATO member states, as well as partner countries Finland and Sweden. Latvia has been hosting the exercise for several years already.


General Everard indicated that the exercises are aimed at training top NATO commanders, including the existing and future ones, with focus on the new technologies.


As reported, Russia and Belarus are due to hold the active phase of their joint military exercise Zapad 2017 from September 14 to 20. Concerns have been raised in the Baltic states that Russia might use the maneuvers for aggressive purpose.


It is planned that Latvia will send three monitors to Belarus and one to Russia to observe Zapad 2017.


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