The armed forces from ten Nato member countries have started the multilateral security cooperation exercise, code-named Sabre Strike 2014, near Riga, Latvia.
Hosted by three Baltic States, with some parts to be conducted in Germany, the two-week exercise involves 4,700 soldiers and 800 military vehicles from Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Norway, as well as the UK and the US.
The US Army Europe-led war games, which focus on promoting interoperability with regional partners and enhancing joint operational capability in a variety of missions, come amid high tensions between Nato and Russia over the long-running political crisis in Ukraine.
Conducted under the command of the Western Military District commander, the drills involve vessel groups, airborne troops and marine corps units, air force formations, Su-34 fighter bombers, Mil Mi-24 helicopters, and Tu-22M3 bombers.
Latvian Defence Minister Raimonds Vejonis was quoted by Agence France Presse as saying: "The exercise is very important given the current security situation."
However, Russia has voiced its objections to the event, branding it an 'act of aggression.'
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov was quoted by Interfax as saying that the deployment of additional Nato soldiers in Central and Eastern Europe on a rotational basis is a violation of Russia's agreements with the alliance.
"We can't take this military build-up by the alliance next to Russia's borders as anything but a demonstration of hostile intent," Titov said.
Meanwhile, the ITAR TASS News Agency quoted a Russian Defence Ministry statement that claims that the country has started a new series of exercises in the Kaliningrad region.
"The number [of] the Russian Defence Ministry's troops and equipment involved is equatable with the number of personnel, armaments and military hardware employed in border exercises being conducted by Nato countries," the statement said.
Sabre Strike 2014, which coincides with the Baltic Host 2014 and BALTOPS 2014 naval exercises, is scheduled to conclude on 20 June.
Image: A US Army soldier explains the capabilities of a Stryker vehicle to a Latvian soldier during Exercise Saber Strike 2012 in Germany. Photo: courtesy of Maj Brian Carlin.