International forces comprised of 30 ships and more than 2000 servicemen conducted ongoing naval training operations in Danish and Swedish territorial waters on the central Baltic Sea Monday. Named „Baltops 2014”, the training is intended to simulate anti-submarine, mine-sweeping, water area patrolling, and cooperative operations with air-based forces. These are the 42nd annual training operations led by the US Navy's European Command, with 13 nations participating along with NATO ships and planes. Latvia’s armed forces are participating with their naval minesweeper „Viesturs” (crew of 40), and five officers on the training command.
Meanwhile, as part of related operation „Saber Strike”, US Air Force pilots demonstrated the in-air refueling of six Minnesota National Guard F-16 destroyers over Riga’s airport on Monday.
Scheduled to continue until June 21, the „Baltops 2014” maneuvers are being closely followed by Russian naval forces located nearby. NATO and the Russian Federation forces have been observing each other warily, but without incident or conflict, according to Brussels-based Latvian Radio reporter Ina Strazdiņa. Russia announced that it would be conducting a parallel series of military drills in its naval base enclave of Kaliningrad, in response to being left out of „Baltops 2014”.
Russian planes have been noticed flying with increasing frequency over Latvian border zones in recent weeks, however the National Armed Forces are not considering raising alert levels, according to Defense Ministry spokesman Kaspars Galkins, as the 12 NATO fighter jets patrolling the Baltic airspace have so far scrambled in response to every instance of Russian aircraft detected near Latvian borders and over its neutral territorial waters.