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NATO to conclude joint exercises in Baltic Sea

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NATO to conclude joint exercises in Baltic Sea

NATO ships in formation during 2020 BALTOPS
Photo: MC1 Kyle Steckler/Navy

NATO’s annual Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) drills will end today in Estonia, concluding nine days of military exercises in the Baltic Sea.

This year’s operations aimed to train NATO forces in air defence, maritime interdiction, anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasure operations. About 3,000 personnel from nineteen NATO members and partner countries took part in the exercise, constituting a significantly smaller turnout than the 8,000 involved in the 2019 BALTOPS drills. All drills took place exclusively at sea to protect forces from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In parallel with the BALTOPS drills, twelve Russian combat jets flew training missions over the Baltic Sea last week, a counter to NATO forces that Moscow has claimed come too close to its territory. Washington and other members of the organisation have repeatedly stated that Russian fighter jets perform unsafely while shadowing NATO planes, accusations rejected by the Russian military.

The exact timing of Russia’s strike practices, planned to coincide with BALTOPS’ 2020 manoeuvres, highlights deepening fault lines between Moscow and the West. Expect Russian military aggression to continue escalating, particularly after President Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the NATO Open Skies Arms Control Treaty further loosened US power to negotiate in the region.

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