Baltic PMs say their countries ready, feel safe ahead of Zapad war games
The Baltic prime ministers say that their countries are ready for Zapad, a major military exercise to be held jointly by Russia and Belarus in September, and feel safe after NATO partners have deployed additional capabilities in the region.
"We are ready as sovereign states, as the Baltic states and as NATO member states," Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said at a joint news conference with his Latvian and Estonian counterparts in Klaip4da on Friday.
Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas said that the countries "are strong in their unity".
"Of course, we are monitoring these exercises Zapad," he said.
Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kučinskis said that NATO troops stationed in all three Baltic countries "are a great and important assurance" that allows the nations to feel safer than they did a couple of years ago.
The Lithuanian State Security Department and the Second Investigation Department under the Defense Ministry said in their annual threat assessment report in April that Russia had built up military forces in its western part and in the exclave of Kaliningrad and would be able to launch combat activities against the Baltic states with 24 to 48 hours' notice.
The intelligence agencies also warned about possible provocations in the border area during the Zapad 2017 war games.
Belarus' foreign minister has said that Zapad 2017, scheduled for September 14-20, will be a defensive exercise that will involve 13,000 troops.
According to the Lithuanian intelligence report, however, "the real number of exercise participants will highly likely exceed the officially stated numbers and the exercise scenario will simulate an armed conflict with NATO".
Some of the exercise training ranges will be very close to Lithuania's border and a large number of Russian troops and combat equipment will be deployed to Belarus, the agencies said.