Largest military exercise since restoration of independence slated for August

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In August 2018, the greatest military exercise since the restoration of the country's independence will take place in Latvia, Defense Minister Raimonds Bergmanis told LTV January 9. 

The exercise will mark the end of a four-year cycle of military drills, and take place both inside and outside the Ādaži military base, the minister said. 

"It'll be a demanding exam and a test. All the units have been preparing for several years." said Bergmanis.

There's no telling yet precisely how many troops will be involved, he said, but allied troops are to be present as well.

"We would like to test almost all the Armed Forces, but we can't [tell the exact number of troops involved yet], as the exercise will take place in several stages... We really want to involve the maximum number of people we can," he said.

Bergmanis also played down the seemingly inevitable fallout from the Kremlin, known to react in heightened tones to any larger NATO exercises taking place across the border, despite their relatively small size compared with Russian many high-profile exercises such as last year's ZAPAD drills.

"It was known four years ago that this exercise will take place, and as I have said publicly that you can see all the exercises on the NATO website," he said.

"That is different from our neighbors who often carry out large-scale exercises without announcing them beforehand," said Bergmanis.  

In the interview, Bergmanis also revealed tentative ministry plans over the purchase of additional military helicopters to bolster its ageing fleet, with a procurement possibly to take place by the end of the year. 

Earlier defense portal reported that the Defense Ministry plans on recruiting an additional 710 soldiers this year. 

Latvia's defense spending grew €126.8m in 2018, reaching €576.4m or 2% of GDP. 

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