Russia to Hold Observation Flights Over Baltics, Land Inspection in Latvia

Russia’s observation aircraft will fly over Latvian and Lithuanian territories

Russia’s observation aircraft will fly over Latvian and Lithuanian territories, while Russian inspectors will visit portions of Latvian territory as part of mutual agreements.

    Russia’s observation aircraft will fly over Latvian and Lithuanian territories, while Russian inspectors will visit portions of Latvian territory as part of mutual transparency agreements, the head of the Russian National Center for Reducing the Nuclear Threat said.

“In accordance with the 2011 Vienna Document on confidence and security measures, a group of Russian inspectors plans to conduct an inspection of a specified area on the territory of Latvia,” Sergei Ryzhkov said Sunday.

The inspection is planned to take place over a 48-hour period on July 20-23 with the use of all-terrain vehicles and helicopters.

The Russian official added that military inspections occur on a regular basis to verify the scope of military activity in a specified area. The troops plan to visit local training grounds, conduct observation flights and hear briefings by commanders on personnel, weapons and equipment systems, as well as current activities.Observation flights over Latvia and Lithuania will be held on July 20-25 as part of the international Treaty on Open Skies, Ryzhkov said. Russia’s AN-30B aircraft will carry out flights from airfields in Riga and Siauliai, keeping a maximum flight distance of 500 and 450 miles respectively.

“These are Russia’s 23rd and 24th observation flights over territories of states party to the treaty in 2015,” Ryzhkov added.

The Treaty on Open Skies was signed in 1992 in Helsinki and currently applies to 34 countries. The treaty establishes a regime of unarmed aerial observation flights over the entire territory of its participants.

The treaty is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants a direct role in gathering information about areas of concern to them. Russia ratified this treaty on May 26, 2001.

The Vienna document 2011 envisages the exchange of information on military forces and defense budgets by the document’s signatory states.


US-Led Saber Strike Military Drills to Kick Off in Baltics, Poland

Soldiers from the US Pennsylvania National Guard take part in a field training exercise during the first phase Saber Strike 2014, at the Rukla military base, Lithuania, on June 14, 2014

Joint tactical maneuvers will also take place in Estonia and Latvia; Poland will join the annual event for the first time.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Large-scale US-led military exercises, codenamed Saber Strike 2015, will start in three Baltic states and Poland on Monday.

The drills, running through June 19, are hosted by Lithuania this year. Joint tactical maneuvers will also take place in Estonia and Latvia. Poland will join the annual event for the first time.

Some 6,000 personnel from 13 NATO member states and partner nations are scheduled to take part in the exercises that include ground troops, tanks, and various aviation, according to US Army Europe’s official website.

Last week, three US B-52 strategic bombers were deployed to Europe to take part in Saber Strike, and in concurrent US-led exercises underway in the Baltic Sea.

Servicemen from Canada, Finland, Germany and the United Kingdom are also included in the Saber Strike 2015 drills.

Denmark, Norway, Portugal and Slovenia have also sent troops to the event for training.

The Saber Strike drills have been held annually in the Baltic states since 2010 with a stated aim of improving cooperation and capabilities of participating nations.


Over 100 US armored vehicles roll into Latvia, NATO flexes muscles in Europe

   March 09, 2015 

An Abrams main battle tank, for US troops deployed in the Baltics as part of NATO's Operation Atlantic Resolve, leaves Riga port March 9, 2015. (Reuters/Ints Kalnins)

An Abrams main battle tank, for US troops deployed in the Baltics as part of NATO’s Operation Atlantic Resolve, leaves Riga port March 9, 2015. (Reuters/Ints Kalnins)

Latvia has confirmed more than 120 armored units, including tanks, have been delivered by the US. According to the Latvian Ministry of Defense, these include M1A2 Abrams tanks and M2A3 Bradley armored vehicles.

The move to deploy yet more tanks and armored vehicles was welcomed by Latvian Minister of Defense Raymond Vejonis.“The presence of our allies (US and NATO) in Latvia is a confirmation of solidarity and security in the region,” Vejonis said in a statement on Twitter.

The tanks were delivered to Latvia via Riga Freeport after being offloaded from the carrier ship Liberty Promise on Monday. US Army General John O’Conner who witnessed the tanks arriving on Latvian soil said, “Freedom must be fought for, freedom must be defended,” as reported by the US Embassy Riga Twitter feed.

He also added their delivery would “demonstrate resolve to President Putin and Russia that collectively we can come together,” while General O’Connor also mentioned, they would stay “for as long as required to deter Russian aggression,” as reported by AFP.

Following the secession of Crimea to Russia, the US has been keen to boost its presence in the Baltic States and Poland to help guard against ‘perceived’ Russian aggression. There are currently more than 150 American troops in Latvia.

On March 6, NATO forces carried out drills with their Latvian counterparts. As part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, Canadian and American soldiers, in cooperation with their Latvian partners conducted exercises in winter conditions. These included training to spot enemy positions as well as calling in indirect fire support. They took place at the Adazi training grounds.

Similar drills also took place in Poland. Live-fire training exercises were conducted at Drawsko Pomorskie in the north of the country, while troops from Poland’s 12th Mechanized Division were also involved.

The ‘temporary’ deployment of US troops in Poland and the Baltic states has been extended through to 2015, which was confirmed by a spokesman for the US Embassy in Poland.

A 1997 Russia-NATO agreement forbids the alliance from having troops permanently stationed in the Baltic States, so the deployment remains a temporary mission. However, it’s not immediately clear when, if ever, NATO would consider the ‘perceived’ threat of Russian aggression is no longer valid and would withdraw the troops. Drills incorporated into Operation Atlantic Resolve have been taking place since April 2014.

The US is keen to expand the operation from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Romania and Bulgaria have already joined to create a ‘southern’ flank, while Hungary, the Czech Republic and Georgia could also agree to take part, according to a US Army official spearheading the effort.

“So by the end of the summer, you could very well see an operation that stretches from the Baltics all the way down to the Black Sea,” said Colonel Michael Foster, of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which is based in Italy. “As you connect countries, there is almost a line of US troops,” as cited by Defense News on March 2.

Russian Deputy defense Minister Anatoly Antonov says Allied forces are ignoring diplomacy and NATO is using the situation in Ukraine to push closer to Russia’s border. However, he dismissed drills being carried out in the Baltic States, Poland and the Black Sea were a threat to Russia.

“Instead of uniting forces to fight evil, the worst of which is terrorism, Western nations are drawing new divisive lines, trying to realize containment schemes against unwelcome states. Today, Russia has been chosen as the target,” Antonov said on March 5.

He cited another example of a NATO military parade on February 24, held just 300 meters from the Russian border, in the Estonian town of Narva. About 140 pieces of armor and 10 times as many troops, including US soldiers, took part in that event.

Moscow saw it as a stab in its direction, but Estonia defended its right to host a parade, saying it can move military whichever way it likes on its territory – the same argument used by Russia when accused of military build-up along its borders.

A freight train carrying a whole column of American armored vehicles was caught on camera in Latvia in December. Dalbe Railway Station, where the train was reportedly spotted, is less than 300 kilometers from the Russian border.

The train was carrying at least 38 vehicles and several semitrailers, including eight Bradley Fighting Vehicles, nine M113 Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs), four petrol tankers, Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks (HEMTTs), High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs), an M88 Hercules Armory recovery vehicle, a couple of trucks, some tactical engineering and medical vehicles, at least four containers and a pair of railcars with ammunition.

NATO are not only bringing their own tanks and armored vehicles to the Baltic States. They are also pushing Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to purchase weapons from richer allies.

Estonia recently negotiated the acquisition of the $55-million Javelin anti-tank missile system. It has also signed what’s been described as “the largest procurement contract ever” for purchasing 44 infantry combat vehicles worth €138 million ($154 million) from the Netherlands.

Latvia is splashing out more than €54 million ($60 million) on a package that includes 123 British combat vehicles. Lithuania bought a €34-million ($38 million) GROM air defense system from Poland in September.

NATO Justifies Military Buildup Near Russia by ‘Fairy Tales’


The chief of the Russian General Staff said on Wednesday that NATO has been using “fairy tales” to justify its military activities near Russian border.


MOSCOW, December 10 (Sputnik) – NATO has been using “fairy tales” to justify its intensified military activities near Russian borders, the chief of the Russian General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, said Wednesday.“Ground-, sea-based and air forces of the alliance have stepped up their activities in Poland, the Baltic region and in the Black and Baltic seas,” he said. “Military exercises and drills explained by contrived fairy tales of ‘threat from the east’ have also intensified.”

“Military exercises and drills explained by contrived fairy tales of ‘threat from the east’ have also intensified,” he added.

Relations between Russia and NATO have deteriorated in the light of the Ukrainian crisis, as the alliance has accused Moscow of meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs, a claim Russia has repeatedly denied.

Following Crimea’s reunification with Russia in March, NATO boosted its military presence in Poland and in the former Soviet Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. In April, the alliance ceased all practical cooperation with Russia, limiting contact to ambassadorial and higher levels.

Moscow has repeatedly expressed concern over the bloc’s expansion in Eastern Europe. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has on several occasions described NATO expansion as a mistake that undermines European stability.

West Directly Involved in Overthrowing Legitimate Governments

The leadership of western countries are directly involved in overthrowing legitimate governments in a number of countries and calls for concern, Russian General Staff head Army Gen. Valery Gerasimov said Wednesday.

“Throughout the year there were continued attempts of interference in the domestic affairs of a number of sovereign states using the so-called color revolution format,” Gerasimov said during a meeting with military attaches from several countries.

According to the Russian Army general’s assessment, “public interest and direct involvement of the political leadership of leading western countries in overthrowing the legitimate state power by using any method cannot but call for our serious concern.”

Earlier in December, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during his annual address to the Russian Federal Assembly that the United States always “directly or from behind the scenes” affects Russia’s relations with neighbors, adding that “sometimes it is unclear who to talk to: to the authorities of the country or directly to their US patrons.”

On February 22, there was a change of government in Ukraine, the legitimacy of which residents of the southeastern regions of Ukraine refused to recognize. The situation in Ukraine escalated when Kiev launched a military operation in the southeast of the country.

Since the beginning of the Ukrainian conflict, the United States has shown support to the new government in Kiev. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeatedly stated that the US authorities are not helping to resolve the Ukrainian crisis but only fuel it by pushing Kiev toward further confrontation with southeastern regions.

The Russians are coming! UK media hypes up RAF interception of Latvian plane

Eurofighter Typhoon jet from the British Royal Air Force (RAF) (AFP Photo / Paul Ellis)

Eurofighter Typhoon jet from the British Royal Air Force (RAF) (AFP Photo / Paul Ellis)

Two Royal Air Force jets reportedly threatened to shoot down a Latvian cargo plane, rushing at supersonic speeds to intercept it, after the plane failed to respond to air traffic control over Kent in Southern England and sent authorities into panic mode.

“I am instructed by Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom to warn you that, if you do not respond immediately to my orders, you will be shot down,” radioed one of the jets, according to an audio recording circulating in UK media.

The incident occurred at about 5pm local time after the Latvian Antonov An-26 aircraft failed to make contact with air traffic controllers.

British Typhoons were tasked with intercepting the cargo plane. “To fulfill their quick reaction role, they were cleared to travel at supersonic speed,” an RAF spokesperson said, adding that the speed explains the loud noise people heard in the air.

Many locals took to Twitter, describing how their houses shook after the loud bangs.

US tanks arrive in Latvia to ward off ‘perceived’ “Russian threat”

U.S. soldiers deployed in Latvia sit in an Abrams tank during a drill at Adazi military base October 14, 2014. (Reuters/Ints Kalnins)

U.S. soldiers deployed in Latvia sit in an Abrams tank during a drill at Adazi military base October 14, 2014. (Reuters/Ints Kalnins)

US tanks have arrived in Latvia as NATO flexes its muscles in an apparent show of strength towards Moscow. The machines are being deployed across the Baltic States and Poland over the next two weeks and will be used for training exercises.

The 1st Cavalry Division, based at Fort Hood in Texas, was deployed in Adazi, not far from the Latvian capital of Riga. 150 soldiers used five M1A2 Abrams tanks, as well as 11 Bradley Fighting Vehicles in a training demonstration.

The commander of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, John Di Giambattista said, “This is more than just a training mission. This is more than just a trip across the Atlantic; this is more than a multinational training exercise. This is how we demonstrate our nations’ commitment to reassure our NATO allies,” Reuters reports

Latvians, as well as their Baltic neighbors and Poland have welcomed the deployment of the troops and tanks as a deterrent to the perceived threat of Russia. This is one of the largest placements of US military forces into part of the former Soviet Union.

Martins Liberts, who is the Commander of the Latvian Infantry Brigade, said that it was good for his country’s army to work with up to date military equipment.

“To be honest, since independence, we have not had the chance to work with tanks as allies, but we will do that now. It will be a unique experience,” he said, according to Reuters.

The Abrams M1A2 is an upgrade of the Abram M1A1, which was used in combat during the 1991 Gulf War. The Abrams are armed with a M256A1 120mm smooth bore cannon, while they also feature one M240 7.62mm machine gun.The combat force consists of around 700 troops and 20 tanks.

“The purpose is to be a very visible demonstration of commitment to our allies. We may take slightly longer to deploy than lighter forces, but there’s nothing like a tank if you really want to achieve effect,” said Captain John Farmer, public affairs officer for Ironhorse, as the 1st Cavalry Division is otherwise known in early October, before the deployment was made.

U.S, soldiers deployed in Latvia with the 1st Cavalry Division 1st Brigade Combat team, attend a rotation ceremony at Adazi military base October 14, 2014. (Reuters/Ints Kalnins)

U.S, soldiers deployed in Latvia with the 1st Cavalry Division 1st Brigade Combat team, attend a rotation ceremony at Adazi military base October 14, 2014. (Reuters/Ints Kalnins)

The 1st Cavalry Division will replace a number of lightly armed US paratroopers, who were deployed in March, following a referendum in Crimea, where local residents elected to cede from Ukraine and saw the peninsula becoming part of Russia.

The 1st Cavalry Division has a long history, having been formed in 1921. Since then the division fought in the Second World War, as well as subsequently in Korea and Vietnam. In the 21st Century, the unit has been involved in tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. The division has also hit the big screen, having appeared in the American Vietnam War epic, Apocalypse Now.

U.S. soldiers deployed in Latvia perform during a drill at Adazi military base October 14, 2014. (Reuters/Ints Kalnins)

U.S. soldiers deployed in Latvia perform during a drill at Adazi military base October 14, 2014. (Reuters/Ints Kalnins)

These are not the first tanks to have been deployed in Europe since the end of the Cold War. In January this year, 29 Abrams M1A2 tanks were sent to Germany to replace older versions of the same military vehicles.

The Abrams tanks will join 33 M2A3 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles as well as numerous other heavy support vehicles that will be positioned at Grafenwohr, which is around 220 kilometers north of Munich and used for training exercises.

U.S. soldiers deployed in Latvia perform during a drill at Adazi military base October 14, 2014. (Reuters/Ints Kalnins)

U.S. soldiers deployed in Latvia perform during a drill at Adazi military base October 14, 2014. (Reuters/Ints Kalnins)

The deployment of the 1st Cavalry Division in Latvia is a direct result of an agreement for creating a rapid reaction force in Eastern Europe, following the NATO summit in the UK in September.

“This is a demonstration of our solidarity and resolve,” said former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the summit in Cardiff in early September. “Should you even think of attacking one ally, you will be facing the whole alliance,” the former Danish Prime Minister added.

The Baltic States have been among the most vocal advocates of NATO strengthening in the region, but the organization is bound by a 1997 agreement with Russia, which bars it from placing permanent bases in Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia. This can be circumvented by staging constant rotations of “exercises” that can in practice amount to the same thing.

Latvia Purchases 123 UK Armored Combat Vehicles


Latvia has purchased 123 surplus combat reconnaissance armored vehicles from the UK.


MOSCOW, September 4 (RIA Novosti) – Latvia has purchased 123 surplus combat reconnaissance armored vehicles from the UK, the official website of the UK government reported on Thursday.

“The highly-mobile UK vehicles have been sold to the Latvian army in a package worth £39.4 million, including their overhaul and refurbishment. The vehicles have previously been used on operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq and Afghanistan”, reads the statement published on the UK government’s website.

Addressing the NATO Summit on Thursday, UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said he is delighted that “Latvia will soon benefit from these proven and life-saving battlefield capabilities, including ambulances and command centers”, according to the government’s official web page.

According to Fallon, the deal will contribute to the strengthening of the NATO partnership.

“This is just one way we are supporting our Baltic NATO allies. As a leading member of NATO the UK is keen to restate publicly our support for the collective security of its members and enable our partners to contribute to international peacekeeping and security operations,” Fallon stated.