Around 8,600 personnel from 18 nations are taking part in the annual BALTOPS naval exercise that started on Sunday in Germany’s Baltic Sea port of Kiel.
Russia used to participate in the exercise but has not been invited since its illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its continuing destabilising of eastern Ukraine.
The 47th BALTOPS exercise involves maritime, air and ground forces with about 50 ships and submarines and 40 aircraft and will run through to the 21st of June.
The training includes finding and destroying sea mines and submarines, the use of air defence and landing troops onshore as well as defence against attack from enemy vessels.
“The Baltic Sea is of vital strategic importance for the Alliance and is bordered by six NATO countries”, said NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu.
“BALTOPS is now in its 47th year and is not directed against anyone – but clearly the security environment in the region has deteriorated after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.” She added, ”BALTOPS tests how well our forces work together and shows that NATO can defend itself against any adversary.”
BALTOPS is the largest exercise series in the Baltic Sea. Participating troops come from Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.