From 3rd to 7th of June 2019, the Higher Command Studies Course (HCSC) conducts their second International Study Trip (IST) to Baltic capitals – Tallinn, Vilnius, Riga in order to deepen understanding of respective planning and policy-related aspects of defence. Intergrated into Modul 6 "Enhancing Deterrence through Cooperation", this study trip gives the students opportunities to meet and discuss with security, defence and communication planners and experts, and collect necessary information to improve deterrence and resilience within the Baltic states in the context of the renewed focus on deterrence by NATO.
First capital - Tallinn. On 3rd of June, the HCSC students visited International Centre for Defence and Security, the leading think-tank in Estonia specialising in foreign policy, security and defence issues, where security matters affecting Nordic-Baltic region and innovative policies were addressed. In the afternoon, at the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Eerik Marmei, General Director of Policy Planning Department, welcomed HCSC delegation and gave a brief about "Baltic Security Challenges ", the implications for NATO and the Baltic states, Baltic defence development, and history and future prospects of Baltic Cooperation.
On the second day of the IST, Permanent Secretary Mr Kristjan Prikk welcomed HCSC delegation to the Ministry of Defence. During the visit, students had the opportunity to discuss the Estonian defence planning at the strategic level, the whole Government approach to National Defence and challenges for the alignment with NATO and EU force planning. After Estonian MoD, HCSC delegation had its last visit in Tallinn at the Estonian Defence Forces HQs, where COL Leon Meier, Head of Analysis and Planning Department, delivered an interesting brief about strategic development of military capabilities, force structures, National Defence Development Plan 2017-2026 and National Defence Action Plan 2020-2023.
Second capital - Vilnius. The third day of the IST started at Parliament of Lithuania where HCSC delegation was welcomed by the Chairman of the National Security and Defence Committee Mr. Vytautas Bakas who emphasized the importance of public support to National Defence, Defence budget and Baltic cooperation. NATO Energy Security Center of Excellence was visited next, where Director Colonel Romualdas Petkevičius presented the importance of Strategic Awareness of energy developments, Energy Efficiency, and Critical Infrastructure Protection. In the afternoon, after Vice-Minister of National Defence Mr. Edvinas Kerza welcomed the HCSC delegation at Ministry of National Defence by addressing keynotes on Defence and Security initiative especially on cyber resilience, the Director of Strategic Communication Department briefed the delegation on STRATCOM developments, challenges, trends and informational effect on National Security. While Mr. Dainius Kaunas Head of Joint Threat Management and Crisis Prevention Group (Governmental Office) presented the Interinstitutional Responses to Emerging Crisis (prevention and hybrid threat, preparedness requirements and crisis management exercises), the Senior Advisor at Euro-Atlantic Cooperation Department Mr. Rimas Alisauskas brought to the discussion "NATO Deterrence: a Lithuania's view" with the emphasize on NATO long term adaptation, National Defence capabilities, eFP, NRF, NRI and Political deterrence vs Military deterrence. The day was concluded with a brief on NATO Force Integration Unit and the importance of its Strategic Communications (KLE, Comunity Outreach, Public Engagements and Affairs, Social Media).
Third capital - Riga. On the 6th of June, HCSC delegation started the visit in Riga at the National Armed Forces Joint HQs. After the Chief of Joint Staff MG Ivo Mogilnijs presented an overview of Latvian National Armed Forces and the cooperation within the Baltic States, the delegation was briefed about the Hierarchy of Concepts and Plans for Defence planning, National Armed Forces development planning with a capability focus (critical capability of present and future, cyber, hybrid, information), Baltic Combined Joint Staff Element(B-CJSE) and eFP Battle Group Latvia. After the visit to the National Armed Forces Joint HQs, HCSC delegation had a guided tour at Latvian War Museum.
On Friday, the last day of the IST, HCSC delegation started the day at the Saeima (Parliament of Republic of Latvia). Mr. Juris Rancans, Chairman of the Defence, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee, Mr. Raimonds Bergmanis member and former Minister of Defence and Mr. Martins Stakis, the Secretary of the Committee, welcomed the HCSC delegation. Very fruitful and eye-opening discussions about interinstitutional cooperation, State Defence Concept, legislative frameworks, corruption, and conscripts policy took place. At the Ministry of Defence, Dr. Artis Pabriks, the Minister of Defence and Deputy Prime Minister, in his welcoming speech, addressed the NATO/EU Security considerations from the political perspective in a national and regional context. In addition, HCSC delegation learned about National and Alliance Defence planning 2016-2019, the Latvian Defence planning cycle and the status of the new version for this year, the impact of military mobility, budget and future challenges. The visit to the beautiful capital of Latvia and also the International Study Trip ended up at NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence (NATO STRATCOM COE), where Chief of Staff CDR. Grzegorz Lyko gave an overview of COE's mission, experiments, researches and studies in support of NATO capabilities.
Second IST was as useful and fruitful as the first IST. HCSC students had many opportunities to deepen their understanding of the Baltic region, the cooperation among the Baltic states and the evolution in adapting the mindset of being stronger united, regardless the current and future challenges. It was also a great opportunity for team building and developing powerful relationships among future leaders the HCSC students will definitely become.