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With Hapless Allies like NATO who needs Enemies

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NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) appears to be oddly equipped to defend Europe from the Irish let alone the might of Federal Russia or China. Routed and in full retreat from Afghanistan after 20 years of hapless intervention during which time the Stone Age reverted to the Iron Age recent interventions suggest NATO could stamp the same fate on Europe.

Latvia’s capital Riga, second largest city in northern Europe briefly turned into a warzone at the weekend, with heavily armed soldiers firing weapons among startled civilians. The firefight turned out to be an exercise in a central city area that had somehow not been marked or cordoned off.

Multiple videos of the incident surfaced online on Saturday, promptly going viral. Footage from the scene shows numerous soldiers in the middle of a street, crouching behind cars and firing their weapons at a building.

One of the soldiers discharged his assault rifle as a woman with her baby was passing by, another video shows. The woman was left visibly shaken, while the baby began crying.

There were no visible cordons or markings that the area was being used for drills, with pedestrians walking right next to the heavily armed troops. The exercise looked very lifelike, with only an unarmed supervising officer casually moving among the troops serving to indicate that the street had not turned into an actual warzone. In fact, some wondered if a movie was being (badly) made.

The incident has drawn an overwhelmingly negative reaction, with the comment sections of the videos full of angry remarks. Some said that residents of the city should have at least been given clear notice via SMS, while others argued that the area should have been completely cordoned off.

Following the outcry, the military gave a lacklustre apology, stating that it uses only blank cartridges for such events, and insisting that no harm was caused. It isn’t clear how a serviceman let alone civilians would be able to tell the difference between a blank and a live round unless a round removed his testicles.

‘In this case, blank cartridges were also used, and this situation was a bitter misunderstanding, for which we apologize. The Defense Ministry calls on the public to show understanding for the exercises,’ the ministry said in a statement cited by the TVnet website.

The Riga ‘firefight’ came as a part of the NATO Namejs 2021 war games, which are running from August 30 to October 3 across multiple locations in Latvia. The NATO exercises involve some 9,300 soldiers from different countries of the 30 nation NATO bloc.

Three soldiers were injured during the drills in a separate unspecified accident on Saturday, with the Defense Ministry stating that two servicemen from the allied armed forces (NATO) had ended up hospitalised in ’stable’ condition.

Elsewhere in the European Union, the manoeuvres of a NATO pilot have sparked a sharp rebuke from Vienna, which warned of ‘diplomatic consequences’ after a NATO alliance aircraft took an unexpected nosedive over its territory during a scheduled flight.

Austria scrambled two Eurofighter jets to intercept and escort a NATO aircraft away from its territory on Friday morning, in an incident that the Alpine nation’s Defense Ministry described as a ’massive threat to aviation security.’

No such incident has happened over the country ’in the past 20 years,’ the ministry’s spokesman, Colonel Michael Bauer, told Austrian media as he slammed the aircraft captain by saying that he ‘behaved like a wrong-way driver on a motorway.’

The unexpected descent happened during an approved routine flight over Austrian territory by a four-engine C-17 military transport aircraft with NATO identification. 

While the aircraft had entered Austrian airspace on a valid overflight permit, it gradually drifted down from the prescribed altitude of between 10,000 and 11,000 meters and, by the time it was flying over the Attersee Lake east of the city of Salzburg, its altitude was just around 1,000 meters. The manoeuvre alarmed the Austrian military, which sent jets to escort the wayward aircraft away.

The reasons for the sudden nosedive are still unclear, Austrian media said. NATO has not commented on the incident as of yet.

The Austrian Defence Ministry said that the nation’s airspace is violated between 30 and 50 times a year on average. Still, this incident apparently stands out in the Austrian military’s judgement since Bauer warned vaguely that it would likely have ‘diplomatic consequences.’

Located at the heart of Europe and surrounded mostly by NATO members, the small Alpine nation is not itself a member of the Alliance. Austria has its military status codified in a special Constitutional Neutrality Act, which says it cannot host any foreign bases on its territory. If you like this story, share it with a friend!

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