From 3rd to 8th of June, the students of the Baltic Defence College's (BALTDEFCOL) Higher Command Studies Course (HCSC) 2018 are conducting their second International Study Trip (IST) to Tallinn (Estonia), Riga (Latvia), Vilnius (Lithuania) and Warsaw (Poland) as part of Module 6 'Enhancement of deterrence through cooperation' and the exercise 'Cooperative Deterrer'".
The HSCS will break into 2 groups with each group visiting two capitals - Team 1 Tallinn and Warsaw; Team 2 Riga and Vilnius.
The aim of the tour is to enable students to understand the principles and procedures of political and defence related decision-making in the Baltic region with particular focus on the current measures to contribute to NATO's concept of the 'extended deterrent' on the Eastern flank. After completing this trip, the students will create proposals to boost the cooperation and integration of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland with NATO's extended deterrence mechanisms. IST should provide support to M6 task completion by giving the students the chance to be briefed by policymakers and industry specialists.
On the first day of the IST, Team 1 was designated for visits to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Parliament of Estonia. In the MoD, HCSC was welcomed by Undersecretary for Defence Policy Mr. Kristjan Prikk who introduced students to security and defense related issues in country’s foreign policy. Afterwards, the students received a presentation on crisis management system and processes from the representatives of Defence Readiness Department. Morning session continued with Colonel Vahur Karus' presentation on national defence planning system and its relations to the NATO/EU defence planning processes. The session ended with insights on Russia and its policies toward the west provided by researcher of International Centre for Defence and Security Mr. Kalev Stoicescu. Afternoon session started in the Parliament of Estonia. HCSC was honoured by the presence of Mr. Hannes Hanso who elaborated on the topic of the role of National Defence Committee in planning and creating sustainable deterrence. The presentation was followed by numerous questions from the students and faculty. The first day of the IST ended with a guided tour to Riigikogu (Parliament) and its premises.
Team 2 travelled to Riga where they met and had a discussion with Mr. Ainars Latkovski, Chairman of the Defence, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee. It was followed by a stroll through the fascinating Parliament building. The trip continued in the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence where the group met Mr. Jānis Sārts, Director of the Centre. In the afternoon, the students were welcomed and briefed by the representatives of the Latvian National Armed Forces (NAF) Joint Headquarters (HQ). The first day of the IST was concluded with a delicious official dinner hosted by Brigadier General Imants Ziediņš, Deputy Head of Staff of the NAF Joint HQS and Support Matters.
The 2nd day of HCSC IST for Team 1 began in the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) HQ. Students of HCSC and faculty members were welcomed by the Head of J5 Section Colonel Leon Meier. Col Meier delivered a comprehensive presentation on EDF capabilities, recent developments and challenges. The presentation was followed by a meeting with the representatives from J3 branch. Students were introduced to current EDF missions and operations abroad. Afternoon session took place in the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (COE). Representatives of COE introduced the structure, functions and main activities of the center. The event ended with Q&A session on cyber security issues and challenges on national level and in NATO context.
Team 2 visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia where they met with Mr Jānis Beķeris, Head of NATO and European Security Policy Division. Mr Beķeris familiarized students with security and defence related issues in country’s foreign policy and had a discussion with students on several actual topics. Next meeting took place at the Ministry of Defence (MoD), where State Secretary Mr Jānis Garisons and Undersecretary of State – Policy Director Mr Jānis Karlsbergs addressed the students, presented their views and viewpoints on the current security and defence challenges and discussed actual defence, security, eFP and NATO/EU related topics with students. In the afternoon, the group traveled to Vilnius, Lithuania.
Warsaw welcomed HCSC Team 1 on their 3rd day of IST not only with excellent weather, but also with very friendly atmosphere, good presentations and open discussions. During the morning session, the course and the faculty were greeted by Vice-Rector of the War Studies University (WSU) Colonel D. Majchrzak. Later, the faculty of WSU introduced students to the University and its ongoing exercise ‘Common effort 18’. In the next briefings, representatives from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of the Republic of Poland Mr. T. Ekiert and Mr. A. Leoniak presented topics on International security policy and National security strategy. The session continued with presentations by General Staff J5 on Polish Armed Forces capabilities' development and by Armed Forces Operational Command J3 on current missions and operations abroad.
Team 2 started their 3rd day with a visit to the Ministry of National Defence Republic of Lithuania (MoND) where they were welcomed by Vice Minister Mr. Vytauts Umbrasas. The group received briefings on Lithuanian MoND's perception of the world and regional security situation, their main activities in defence domain and LAF structure, reorganization and future development plan. Afterwards, Mr. Daivis Petraitis, Deputy Director of the International Relations and Operations Department delivered a briefing on “Zapad exercise 2018” with analysis of the events. The group had the second meeting in Lithuanian Seimas (Parliament) with Mr. Vytautas Bakas, Chairman of the National Security and Defence Committee. Mr Bakas shared his viewpoint on the current political and security situation in the world and in the immediate neighbourhood followed by a debate with the students. The group concluded the day with an official dinner, hosted by LTC Andrejus Grachauskas, TRADOC COS.
On the last day of the IST, Team 1 had a meeting with Ambassador Adam Hałaciński, Director of Security Policy Department at MFA. Ambassador delivered a very comprehensive presentation on Poland's security challenges, defence issues and expectations from Brussel summit 2018. After the meeting, HCSC visited National Security Bureau where they received briefing on functions and roles of the institution. Both presentations were followed by Q/A sessions.
On the 4th day, Team 2 visited the NATO Energy Security Centre of Excellence (ENSEC COE) where they were welcomed by Col. Gintaras Bagdonas, Director of NATO ENSEC COE and Dr. Artūras Petkus, Head of Strategic Analysis Division. Col. Bagdonas and Dr. Petkus talked about NATO’s role in the Energy Security, their operation, research and recommendations on energy sustainability, as well as the most critical energy infrastructure in NATO countries. In the afternoon at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, the group met with Eitvydas Bajarūnas, Ambassador at Large for Hybrid Threats. Ambassador Bajarūnas introduced the students to his look at the role of diplomacy and foreign affairs building the resilience against hybrid threats. On 8th of June, the group will make their conclusions of the IST and return to its home town Tartu.