NATO will conduct its largest collective defence exercise in the last ten years in the Baltic Sea region in the fall.
At Steadfast Jazz 2013, to be held in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, NATO response forces will train action in case Article 5 is invoked, the Estonian Defence Ministry said. The war games represent the alliance's largest exercise since the accession of the Baltic states.
Defence Minister Urmas Reinsalu stressed at Thursday's meeting of the NATO defence ministers in Brussels that even if the exercise does not take place on Estonian soil, it is of great importance to Estonia.
"At this exercise, defending Estonia in a situation where we have been attacked and Article 5 of the NATO underlying treaty has been invoked will be practiced. It's an opportunity to put collective defence to the test and it will help NATO prepare for all possible situations in all NATO regions," the minister said. Different NATO institutions as well as allied staffs are involved in preparation for the exercise, which Reinsalu said shows that awareness of Estonia's security concerns in NATO is much higher than a few years ago.
"The exercise also will help NATO better evaluate how Estonian domestic procedures would work in a crisis as other state institutions besides the Defence Ministry and Defence Forces will be engaged in preparation," he said.
The size of NATO forces participating in Steadfast Jazz will be determined during the spring. Estonia plans to contribute an infantry company as well as officers and civilian officials to the staff training.
The defence ministers also discussed exercises to be held in coming years so as to ensure the interoperability of NATO troops after the end of the Afghanistan mission.
Reinsalu presented the Defence Ministry's Cross of Merit III Class to long-time NATO officials Gordon Monaghan and Frank Boland in recognition of their contribution to Estonia's integration into NATO and work to strengthen collective defence capability.
Largest NATO Exercise in Last 10 Years to Take Place in Baltic Sea Region in Fall