Cooperative Partner-2000, a naval, air and amphibious exercise, has been underway since June 19 in Ukrainian waters of the northwestern Black Sea and on land near Odessa. This is the most ample joint exercise hosted by Ukraine since it became independent. It is, by the same token, the largest exercise ever conducted by NATO forces in a post-Soviet country. Forces from ten NATO member nations–including the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Turkey–and six partner countries, including Georgia and Azerbaijan, are participating in this exercise, held in the framework of NATO’s Enhanced Partnership for Peace program and scheduled to continue until July 1. Overall, some fifty naval ships–including those from the Standing Naval Force Mediterranean (STANAVFORMED) and from NATO’s recently activated Maritime Mine Countermeasures Force Mediterranean (MCMFORMED)–as well as thirty aircraft, forty armored vehicles and 5,500 personnel, 900 Ukrainian marine infantry [marines] among them, are involved in the successive phases of the exercise at sea and on land.
Cooperative Partner-2000 is being held under the direction of U.S. Admiral James Ellis, Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces Southern Europe (CINCSOUTH). The Commander Allied Naval Forces Southern Europe (COMNAVSOUTH). Vice-Admiral Luigi Lillo, the Commander Striking and Support Forces Southern Europe (COMSTRIKFOR) Vice-Admiral Daniel Murphy, the Ukrainian navy’s commander Vice-Admiral Mikhaylo Yezhel, and Ukraine’s First Deputy Defense Minister, General Ivan Bizhan, supervise key phases and forces in this exercise. Cooperative Partner-2000 is mainly designed to: achieve a common understanding of NATO Peace Support Operations doctrine and training; practice the planning of operations by multinational staffs of allied and partner countries; assimilate command, control and communications procedures; and advance toward interoperability between maritime and amphibious forces of the NATO allies, Ukraine and other partner countries.
The sea phase of the exercises features convoy movements in both daytime and nighttime, transshipment of cargoes between vessels moving at full speed, artillery and missile firings on surface targets and air targets, and helicopter landings on and takeoffs from friendly ships, with Ukrainian helicopters using the deck of the landing ship USS Trenton. In an unscheduled episode, a Ukrainian tugboat rescued a Georgian cutter which had issued a distress call in neutral waters while en route to the exercise area from its base in Poti.
The land phase is underway since June 23 at the Chobanka training range near Odessa. Marines from nine allied and partner countries practice creating and protecting a safety zone in a hostile environment, de-mining operations, setting up and operating a field hospital and delivering humanitarian assistance to the civilian population in a conflict zone.
Russia declined NATO’s and host country Ukraine’s invitations to join the Partner countries in Cooperative Partner-2000. The exercise commanders, NATO representatives and officials from participating countries are due to convene in Odesa on June 30-July 1 for an assessment of the allied and partner forces’ performance (AFSOUTH releases, UNIAN, June 19-23).
INFLATION FALLING RAPIDLY IN GEORGIA.