NATO exercise BALTOPS 2023 is taking place in Estonia.

"The 52nd Baltic Operations Exercise (BALTOPS 23), NATO's main maneuvers designed to test the naval component in the Baltic region, will begin in Tallinn (Estonia)," the website of the US Navy reports.

According to data posted on the website of the US Navy, the maneuvers will continue until June 16. They will be attended by 19 NATO member countries, including Belgium, Canada, Germany, Portugal, Poland, Lithuania, Great Britain, Turkey and the United States.

In addition, for the first time, Finland will participate in maneuvers as a member of the North Atlantic bloc.

"Finland has been participating in the BALTOPS as a critical partner for a long time, but this will be the first time it will be involved in the BALTOPS 23 exercise as a member of NATO," the US Navy noted.

  • Finnish soldiers during the Cold Response 2022 joint exercise with NATO
  • AFP
  • © Jonathan NACKSTRAND

At the same time, according to analysts, the new status of Finland will not affect its role in the ongoing NATO exercises.

"Nothing has changed radically for Helsinki. But the very fact that Finland, which has been a neutral country for decades, has now become a member of NATO, of course, is indicative, "said Konstantin Blokhin, an employee of the Center for Security Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in a conversation with RT.

In turn, military political scientist Ivan Konovalov believes that Helsinki's participation in the exercises as a member of the North Atlantic bloc speaks of "lowering the status of Finland as a state."

"Before that, Finland had a completely unique status - it was a buffer country between first the Soviet Union, and then Russia and the collective West. And this gave Helsinki very serious preferences. Now it's just one of many NATO members, one of 31 countries that will sadly obey the orders of the United States, "the analyst said in an interview with RT.

Sweden is also among the participants in the maneuvers, which will be present at BALTOPS 23 as a NATO partner - unlike Helsinki, Stockholm has not yet achieved approval of its application for membership in the alliance from all its members.

It is expected that 6 thousand troops, 50 ships, 45 aircraft and other equipment will be involved in the Baltic maneuvers.

The exercises are led by the US Navy in Europe and Africa and the United States Sixth Fleet, direct command and control "will be carried out by the strike and support forces" of the combined NATO Navy, headquartered in the Portuguese city of Oeiras, the Pentagon said.

"BALTOPS maneuvers continue to serve as a testing ground for alliance forces and are extremely important for improving the advanced parameters of overall interoperability in areas such as mine action, work with surface drones, as well as joint sea and air operations," the US Navy added.

Recall that the BALTOPS exercises are annual and have been held since 1972. Last year, 14 countries, 45 ships, more than 75 aircraft and 7,5 thousand personnel participated in them.

From the Mediterranean Sea to the Baltic Sea

In parallel with the BALTOPS 23 exercise, NATO is conducting another large-scale maneuver in Europe - Defender 23. They began on April 22 and will last until June 23. About 9,17 troops from the United States and another 26,<> from <> NATO countries and its partners take part in them. The training is supervised by the command of the US Army in Europe and Africa.

The exercises take place in three stages: Swift Response 23, Immediate Response 23 and Saber Guardian 23. At the same time, each of the maneuvers is carried out in different regions of Europe. So, the action of Swift Response 23 unfolded in the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas, Immediate Response 23 in the Balkans, and Saber Guardian 23 in the Black Sea.

Training includes, in particular, the development of airborne operations, response to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear threats, the use of HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), as well as combined arms maneuvers.

  • Swift Response Exercise 23
  • © Fabian Simon/Europa Press

As noted on the Pentagon website, the purpose of these NATO exercises is to demonstrate the ability of the US Armed Forces to quickly deploy troops, deter those who may threaten peace in Europe, and also repel possible aggression. Defender 23 also demonstrates the commitment of European countries to expand the capabilities of their armed forces, the US defense department added.

It is worth noting that in the spring of 2023, the North Atlantic Alliance has already conducted several exercises. So, from April 21 to May 23, NATO organized Combined Resolve 18 maneuvers in Germany, in which more than 4 thousand troops were involved. In addition to the countries of the alliance, partners of the bloc, including Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova and Georgia, participated in the training. The main goal of the exercise was to establish interaction between various units and countries.

In addition, in April and May, maneuvers were held in Sweden with the participation of NATO member states Aurora 23. These trainings were the largest in the last quarter of a century. The exercises, in which about 26 thousand military personnel were involved, took place in the air, on land and at sea. The goal of Aurora 23 in Stockholm was called the development of countering an armed attack on Sweden.

"They are trying to provoke Russia"

In the official releases of NATO and the military departments of the countries of the alliance, as a rule, it is not indicated which country is meant by a conditional enemy in the exercises. However, experts interviewed by RT believe that Russia is considered as an adversary in all major NATO maneuvers.

  • Combined Resolve 18 Exercises
  • AFP
  • © Christof STACHE

"They don't indicate it, because everything is clear to everyone. Every day in the West they say that it is necessary to contain Russia in all possible ways. In addition, the Baltic states openly call the Russian Federation their adversary. The same can be said about Poland. In general, in Eastern Europe, Russia is called the main threat to national security, therefore, during the exercises, they will not consider any other state for this role, "Konstantin Blokhin believes.

A similar opinion is shared by Ivan Konovalov. "Now, in all NATO exercises, the eastern neighbor of the alliance, that is, Russia, is assumed as a conditional adversary," the analyst said.

According to experts, BALTOPS is rather a standard exercise, but for the Baltic they are quite large.

"For the Baltic, 50 ships are a pretty decent grouping, because, let's be honest, this is not a very vast body of water. Obviously, in this way NATO wants to demonstrate strength. But such demonstrations are unlikely to frighten us," said Ivan Konovalov.

In turn, Konstantin Blokhin believes that in this way the alliance also seeks to demonstrate the solidarity of the West against the backdrop of the Ukrainian crisis. "They want to show anti-Russian sentiment and Euro-Atlantic solidarity with Ukraine," the analyst says.

In addition, according to Blokhin, NATO today is trying to challenge the interests of the Russian Federation in all regions.

"We are tested for strength wherever our interests are represented: from the Baltic to the Black Sea. NATO has gone much further than just being active. In some cases, they openly and demonstratively try to provoke Russia," the analyst said.

Political scientists state that the activity of the alliance has seriously increased in recent years, including on the borders with the Russian Federation.

"It will not be superfluous to recall that NATO supports the Nazi regime in Kiev. All other actions of the alliance are simply attached to this fact. So NATO's activity has clearly increased, and has increased exponentially," Ivan Konovalov concluded.