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On June 7, one of the most important maritime exercises in the Baltic Sea begins: BALTOPS 2020. By June 16, a total of 29 seaborne units and 29 aircraft of the air and naval forces of nineteen NATO member and partner countries in the Baltic Sea Air Defense, U. - Practice boat defense, mine defense and other aspects of surface warfare. For this purpose, the sea maneuver is divided into two training phases: in the first part, you will work through the individual training content according to a closely-knit timetable. In the second part of the exercise, individual aspects of naval warfare are then trained as "free play" between two parties in a tactical phase (TACEX). This includes maritime surveillance, simulated escalation, simulated combat.

For the first time, the exercise will be conducted from NATO's STRIKFORNATO headquarters in Oeiras, Portugal. So far, US NAVEUR (United States Naval Forces Europe) has been the headquarters in charge. As part of the reform of the NATO command structure, STRIKFORNATO moved its headquarters from Naples, Italy to Lisbon, Portugal in the summer of 2012.

The participating nations include Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Canada, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The German Navy participates with the frigate "Lübeck" (with two Sea Lynx helicopters), the mine-hunting boats "Grömitz" and "Weilheim", the tenders "Donau" and "Werra" and a sea reconnaissance aircraft P-3C Orion.

The joint exercise of seventeen NATO member states with the two NATO partner countries Sweden and Finland has a great symbolic effect. Especially for the Baltic States, but also for the two Scandinavian countries, the Baltic Sea is an important access route for their economic supply and for strategic reinforcement.


From the point of view of naval warfare, the Baltic Sea is a unique area of ​​operations. Response times are short in crisis and war. The threat is three-dimensional. Shallow water depths, the geography and the constant presence of enemy reconnaissance limit the possibilities for deployment and deployment and make strategic and tactical surprises practically impossible. Even in the Cold War, the United States had recognized the complexity of crisis preparedness and warfare in the Baltic Sea and sent units to do exercises with NATO partners once a year. BALTOPS, which has been in operation since 1972, is an expression of "our ongoing commitment to regional security," said Vice Admiral Lisa Franchetti, U.S. Naval Forces Europe Deputy Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet Commander and NATO Naval Striking and Support Forces.

Spectacular were the largely unnoticed overflights of American B-52 bombers and - in 1985 - the participation of the "USS Iowa", a battleship from the Second World War.

In addition to the cooperation between the various navies, BALTOPS is also a demonstrative sign of the alliance towards Russia - during the Cold War and now, after the events in Eastern Ukraine and in the Crimea, as well as exercises with scenarios that the Baltic States perceive as threatening. Moscow understood this message. BALTOPS 2019 was 'shadowed' by an exercise by Russian naval and naval forces. According to US media, this should also happen in 2020.

Hans Uwe Mergener