Some 5,000 troops, sixteen warships and twenty-four aircraft from eleven NATO member and partner countries, including the three Baltic states, completed the Baltic Challenge-98 exercise on July 25. In progress since July 10 in Lithuania’s coastal region of Klaipeda, Baltic Challenge-98 was NATO’s largest exercise in Europe this year. It was also the largest held in the Baltic states since the restoration of their independence. The exercise included minesweeping, convoy-escorting, amphibious and paratroop landings, anti-sniper combat and patrol and checkpoint practice. U.S. and other officers pronounced the exercise successful in its task of ensuring interoperability of the participating forces.
The Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Polish presidents attended and addressed the closing ceremony, stressing the importance of such exercises in preparing the Baltic states for eventual accession to NATO. “We aim to become active creators of security and stability as NATO members,” host country president Valdas Adamkus stated, indirectly responding to professions of concern that the Baltic states might become “mere consumers of security.” (BNS, Radio Vilnius, July 25; background in the Monitor, July 20)
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT’S PARTING SHOT.