The nations of Europe seem to be bulking up their navies, and Germany is taking the lead among them, as they prepare to counter a presumed threat from the East — Russia.
On Sunday, Reuters reported that on Monday, Germany is set to commence major naval exercises off the Finnish coast, which ill include 3,600 sailors and troops, 40 ships and 30 aircraft from more than a dozen European countries. The focus of the drills is keeping the Baltic Sea safe for trade transports.
"The Baltic Sea is our front yard, so we and our neighbors obviously want to be able to move freely on the sea lines," Captain Sven Beck told reporters aboard the German frigate Hamburg.
— Baltic Tank (@BalticTank) 26 октября 2018 г.
However, western military experts believe that in the case of armed conflict, Russia will block the Baltic Sea, cutting trade lines and making it difficult for Western Europe to provide naval military support to the Baltic countries bordering Russian territory.
According to the Reuters report, the Baltic Sea is shallow and has narrow straits, which makes it easy to block it with minefields. During the exercise, the European military ships will practice clearing mines, escort cargo ships and simulate the use of force.
"The aim of our exercise is to secure the sea lines of communication, those lines that you can't see but that guarantee trade and prosperity in the countries along the Baltic coast," Captain Beck told reporters.
This signals that Germany is slowly getting rid of its "post-World War II reluctance to take the military lead", the report says. German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said last month that Germany must "take more responsibility for the region."
— Tero Tuominen (@TeroTweet) 26 октября 2018 г.
"We don't have a big navy, but in relation to the Baltic countries it is huge. So we are happy to take the responsibility," Captain Beck echoed.
And it looks like Europe is rather happy to hand this initiative to Berlin.
"We are very happy that Germany has taken the lead in that sense," Finnish navy chief Admiral Veijo Taipalus said.
It looks like Europe, led by Berlin, finally decided to do just that.