17:01 GMT15 May 2021
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    NATO has begun a huge air and sea operation in the Baltic region involving over 5,000 troops and scores of ships and aircraft, despite declaring the Baltic States to be under no threat from Russia.

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday that the alliance sees no immediate threat from Russia to its Baltic member states, despite NATO itself ramping up military forces in the region. 

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
    © AP Photo / Geert Vanden Wijngaert

    Stoltenberg was speaking on a visit to his native Norway, where he will on Friday meet Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Finance Minister Siv Jensen, Foreign Minister Børge Brende, Defence Minister Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide, and other senior officials. The Secretary General will also meet with the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense at the Norwegian Parliament.

    "What we see is more unpredictability, more insecurity, more unrest… (But) I believe we don't see any immediate threat against any NATO country from the east," he told Norway's state broadcaster NRK.

    "Our goal is still cooperation with Russia… That serves NATO and it serves Russia."

    In spite of this scores of ships and aircraft from 17 countries are taking part in US-led Baltic Sea naval drills as part of exercise BALTOPS beginning on June 5 and lasting until June 20.

    The exercise will feature anti-submarine warfare, air defense, intercepting suspect vessels and amphibious landings. A total of 49 ships, 61 aircraft, one submarine, and a combined amphibious landing force of 700 US, Finnish and Swedish troops will participate in the drills. Fourteen NATO Allies are joined this year by NATO partners Finland, Georgia and Sweden. Overall, 5,600 troops will be involved.


    Maintaining "Regional Security"

    Vice Admiral James Foggo III, the Commander of Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO said:

    "This exercise represents an important opportunity for our forces, as allies and partners, to enhance our ability to work together and strengthen capabilities required to maintain regional security."

    "This exercise will be conducted in a truly joint environment, and I look forward to working with and learning from so many different nations and services," he said.

    While BALTOPS is a United States-led exercise, Vice Admiral Foggo and his NATO staff are responsible for executing it this year. Participants include Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.


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