Latvia's "Namejs 2018" drills will see military tackling civil unrest

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August 20 to September 2 will see Latvia running the "Namejs 2018" military drills, which organizers say will be among the most ambitious and extensive ever staged on Latvian territory.

Training will take place throughout the territory of Latvia involving around 10,000 people, and interestingly, one of the scenarios will see troops deployed to counter "spontaneous unrest" among the populations in Valmiera and Jekabpils - a scenario which will hopefully prompt considerable thought about where the borders lie between civil and military power and to what extent the army can or should be used to quell unrest.

Allied troops will play the role of the demonstrators, suggesting their ambitions will be more paramilitary than political.

"There will be a lot of movement throughout Latvia... there will be tasks too for both the navy and the air force and, of course, the State Police will carry out their tasks that are necessary for their training. There will be loud noises. We apologize and alert the public to this fact," said Chief of Defense Leonīds Kalniņš at a pre-drill media briefing August 2.

Live ammunition will not be used outside established military zones, but the training will be very realistic, Kalniņš said, acknowledging that Russia's hybrid operations in eastern Ukraine had been taken into account when devising the scenarios.

However, he also stressed that the drills are defensive in nature and not directed against any outside country.

"We will not create a scenario against a particular country, but we will prepare the National Armed Forces to protect Latvia against any danger," Kalniņš said.

U.S. Black Hawk helicopters currently stationed at Lielvarde air base will be participating too, he confirmed.

The armed forces have also produced a video to advertise the Namejs drills, complete with martial orchestral soundtrack, showing off some recent military procurement purchases and personnel doing things in slow motion. 

It will "demonstrate that there is readiness to defend Latvia" says a caption.


Despite the focus on military operations, some of the chief challenges during Namejs 2018 will be co-ordinating with other state agencies and the general public, said Lieutenant Colonel Gūnars Grikmanis in an interview with official military portal

"In the training, we will use a NATO scenario based on the geographic conditions of the region. This scenario is flexible enough to run both conventional tactical operations and scenarios for preventing provocations in the country," said Grikmanis, explaining that Namejs is the climax of a four-year planning cycle.

"The main challenges in the training will be related to this cooperation with other state structures - with the police and the border guard. Cooperation with state and local government institutions and the civilian population will also be essential. Another major challenge is logistics... [Another challenge is] mobilizing national resources for the armed forces - this will be one of the goals of the training."

Agreements have been made with private landowners where necessary and clean-up teams will ensure that any damage such as churned-up dirt roads caused by heavy machinery will be smoothed over when Namejs 2018 is done and dusted, said Grikmanis, while also appealing to the public not to be alarmed and to cooperate when seeing military columns on the move.

According to earlier information about the Namejs 2018 scenarios, use of drones and cyber-defense will also feature as important aspects of the exercises.

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