Three major military exercises to be staged in Latvia through summer

Saber Strike, Swift Response, and Namejs military exercises are planned this summer across the country, involving allied troops and Latvia's armed forces, the Defense Ministry told the press May 16.

The exercises involve troops from 18 allied NATO countries, with the Namejs exercises slated for late summer singled out as a massive test of Latvia's army, as well as institutions under Interior Ministry control.

Over the course of the manoeuvres, Latvia's military will move across the terrain outside conventional military zones like the Ādaži headquarters, said Gunārs Grikmanis, lieutenant colonel at the Latvian National Armed Forces.

"We have to be able to move our forces...we must learn our land, our surroundings, and our terrain," he explained the reasoning for the large areas covered in the exercises.

Grikmanis admitted it's inevitable that the local population will be affected, with motorcades of military transport moving across the country. He insisted, however, that exercises are closely coordinated with locals and businesses.

The drills will also involve preparing for hybrid threats. "We have learned from the example of Ukraine," a Defense Ministry source said, asking not to be named. The source said Latvia's strategy doesn't allow for hybrid threats, like the infamous "little green men", to grow into conventional ones, as these are dealt with very quickly.

Below is a brief look at the scale and purpose of each of the exercises:

Saber Strike 2018

The US-led exercise takes place June 3 to 15 across the Baltic states and Poland. It involves more than 3,000 troops from 13 countries. As part of Saber Strike, troops will train for urban warfare at the former military town of Skrunda. Latvia's annual Summer Shield exercises are now incorporated into Saber Strike.

The exercises will coincide with Swift Response 2018 and will encompass armed forces of every field, said Grikmanis.

"We'll be shooting guns of all calibers and using all transport, large and small," he said. The actual shooting will be limited to the Ādaži base. 

Saber Strike 2018 will coincide with a number of exercises, including Lithuania's Thunder Storm and NATO's Baltops.

Swift Response 2018

The exercise will see paratroopers arriving from US soil and landing in Latvia. It culminates June 8 and involves 800 paratroopers. Lithuanian and Polish troops are also to be present.

Namejs 2018

Meanwhile the Namejs 2018 exercise, to take place August 20 to September 2, will amount to a massive test of Latvia's national forces. Four years in preparation, it will include at least 9,200 troops under Latvian command. Cross-coordination capabilities will be tested as the exercise involves firefighters, State Police, Border Guard, and others. 

Latvia's troops will hold war games against 650 troops from allied Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, the Czech Republic, and the US.

It will also include any "volunteer reservists" who apply to participate, as well as former service men and women. 

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