Two NATO-sponsored military exercises are currently underway in the Baltic States. Amber Hope-99, in progress since September 13 at the Rukla training grounds in Lithuania, is the largest land exercise anywhere held under NATO’s Partnership for Peace program this year. A total of 1,500 troops from Lithuania, from NATO members Germany, Denmark and Poland and from aspiring member Romania are involved. Included in the exercise are elements of the Lithuanian-Polish joint battalion LITPOLBAT. Publicity around the exercise is minimal. The troops are said to be practicing joint multilateral actions as well as bilateral Lithuanian-Polish operations. NATO’s newly admitted Poland functions, in effect, as a strategic link between the alliance and the candidate county Lithuania.
The naval exercise Amber Sea-99 has been in progress since September 18 in Estonian waters. Seven warships from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Germany–which coordinates the exercise–are involved in practicing mine-sweeping operations, communications among fleets of NATO member and aspiring countries, and support of land operations in accordance with NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. The exercise is mainly designed to improve coordination among national fleets, with their different training, equipment, and command languages, in order to enable them to operate as parts of a single force. A related aim of the exercise is to advance cooperation among the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian elements of the joint Baltic naval squadron, BALTRON.
In a parallel development, the Estonian and Latvian governments have in recent days approved the NATO Membership Action Plan for their respective countries. Due to be unveiled at NATO headquarters in Brussels shortly, the plans envisage comprehensive military, financial and other measures to meet the criteria for admission to NATO (BNS, September 13-14, 18, 21).
ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IN MILITARY EXERCISES UNDER NATO AEGIS.