The U.S. Marines have been practicing for a D-Day type of landing with mock beach landings in the Baltics. The drill was a part of the NATO Exercise Baltics Operation, which is an annual exercise with about 6,000 troops. It runs from June 1st to 16th and took places on a Latvia beach. The exercise is aimed to project NATO power from the sea because of the Russian threats to the Baltics.
The goal is to show how NATO forces can deliver sea control and project power from the sea. The Marines participating were Reserves from Texas deployed from the USS Arlington. The drill was actually conducted on the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day Landing, which was the largest amphibious invasion in recent history.
While the Latvian landing was much smaller than the D-Day landings, the operation involved maritime, air and land forces. It was multinational with 14 nations participating, as well.
BALTOPS has been going on since 1972, but this year it was different. The tensions between Russia and NATO have been on the rise and have reached heights similar to that of the Cold War. Balkan countries are concerned due to the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the aggression from Russia.
Special operations forces were sent to the Baltics from the U.S. in January to help train local forces. Russian forces, on the other hand, have made it clear they can reach the capitals of Estonia and Latvia in less than 60 hours, if necessary. About 4,450 active ground troops are found in Latvia with about 15,750 total in the three Baltic countries surrounding it. Estonia has the ability to activate 16,000 paramilitary troops and Lithuania has about 10,000 additional militia members.
NATO has rotating fours throughout this region, but it may not be enough to keep a Russian attack at bay.
President Trump has made it clear that he’s committed to a collective defense of NATO, which wasn’t the same as his previous outlook on the alliance.