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State secretary: Latvia should not panic too much about Zapad 2017

Jānis Garisons/mod.gov.lv.
«Latvia should not panic too much about Zapad 2017, because Latvia has increased its funding for defence and the general presence of allied forces in Baltic States has increased dramatically ever since the annexation of Crimea in 2014,» says Latvian Defence Ministry’s state secretary Jānis Garisons.

He admits that Defence Ministry expects cyber operations and information operations to be realized against Latvia during Zapad 2017 military exercises.

Garisons sometimes gets the impression that Russian media may try to create misinformation about these military exercises and try to show that Baltic States are terrified and live in fear. «We are neither scared nor live in fear. Security situation in relation to these exercises is an everyday thing for Baltic States with which residents have to live with, and we have to invest money in our defensive capabilities,» says Garisons.

«We expect cyber and information operations being carried out against Latvia during exercises. We can expect security risks. Of course, we expect direct demonstration of military forces close to the border, but we can expect the aforementioned operations as well.»

Garisons did not say how Defence Ministry will act in response to such operations. A look at the information space reveals that Russia performs such operations on a regular basis. «Should be expect anything new? We can only guess, but it is known to us that Russia does have a so-called information and cyber force. It would be odd if these forces are not used in Zapad 2017 exercises,» added the ministry’s state secretary.

Garisons also proposed avoiding speculations about singular incidents that could potentially create risks for Latvia. According to him, the only major incident took place near Latvia’s border in spring 2016, when a Russian plane aggressively passed an American fighter jet.

Garisons said there is no reason to speculate about the version that suggests Russia’s army may remain in Belarus after exercises, changing the balance of power in the region. Belarus has strong cooperation with Russia, but Latvia is not aware of Belarusian politicians would permit Russian armed forces to remain in the country. «I would rather avoid raising panic in this matter. I do not see any major risks here. At the same time, I would like to remind everyone that Belarusian and Russian relations have been developing in an unbalanced pattern lately. Nevertheless, the crisis between the two countries has become balanced and an active cooperation period has begun,» added Garisons.

No specific activities are planned for armed forces in relation to Zapad 2017 exercises. Military exercises will be organized in Latvia involving local and allied units. NATO generals will attend exercises in the National Defence Academy. Those are regular exercises organized independently from Zapad exercises. There are also more than 1,000 NATO combat group stationed in Latvia on a regular basis, as well as a unit of US helicopters. On top of that, a unit of 200 American troops will arrive in Latvia for the duration of Zapad exercises and a US warship will be present in the Baltic Sea, said Garisons.

Because of Russia’s realized information campaigns, residents have to develop critical thinking skills and understand that false information may enter the information space at any moment. Defence Ministry, meanwhile, has to continue developing combat capabilities of the country’s armed forces, said the state secretary.


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junnrreymonnde 18.09.2017
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