Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 31

The integrated Baltic Battalion (BaltBat), the first joint military force of the three Baltic states, held its first combat exercise from January 29 to February 9 at the Adazi training grounds in Latvia. It was the largest military exercise held in the Baltic states since the restoration of their independence in 1991 and the first-ever joint exercise of the three countries. In the next phase of training, the battalion’s national Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian companies will conduct exercises with Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish units, respectively, pending the planned deployment of those forces in international peacekeeping operations this summer.

Addressing the closing ceremony of the exercise, Latvian president Guntis Ulmanis described BaltBat as a contribution to Baltic regional security, an example of solidarity among the three states, and an illustration of their quest for joining western defense organizations. At a briefing after the exercise, the three Baltic defense ministers reaffirmed that their countries’ common goal of joining NATO precluded efforts to create a Baltic military alliance. The closing stage of the Adazi exercise was attended by the ambassadors and military attaches of those western countries supporting BaltBat.

The Baltic Battalion was created pursuant to collective agreements signed in September 1994 by the defense ministers of the three Baltic states, Britain, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. The latter four countries provide the military assistance to the joint force. British Royal Marines Lt. Colonel Allan Thompson, who has been BaltBat’s chief training officer, commanded the Adazi exercise; he has now been relieved by a Norwegian officer. Officers from each of Baltic states rotate annually as BaltBat commanders. (12)