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An explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8 prepares to enter the water in Putlos, Germany, on Friday, Sept.13, 2019, during a simulated maritime improvised explosive device drill during exercise Northern Coasts.
An explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8 prepares to enter the water in Putlos, Germany, on Friday, Sept.13, 2019, during a simulated maritime improvised explosive device drill during exercise Northern Coasts. (Travis Simmons/U.S. Navy)
An explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8 prepares to enter the water in Putlos, Germany, on Friday, Sept.13, 2019, during a simulated maritime improvised explosive device drill during exercise Northern Coasts.
An explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8 prepares to enter the water in Putlos, Germany, on Friday, Sept.13, 2019, during a simulated maritime improvised explosive device drill during exercise Northern Coasts. (Travis Simmons/U.S. Navy)
An explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8 controls an EOD remote-controlled robot in Putlos, Germany, while executing a mission during NATO's exercise Northern Coasts on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019.
An explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8 controls an EOD remote-controlled robot in Putlos, Germany, while executing a mission during NATO's exercise Northern Coasts on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. (Travis Simmons/U.S. Navy)
Sailors assigned to Mobile Dive and Salvage Unit 2 prepare to deploy a Remote Environmental Measuring Units-100 unmanned submersible to collect images with its side-scan sonar during exercise Northern Coasts 2019 in Putlos, Germany, on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019.
Sailors assigned to Mobile Dive and Salvage Unit 2 prepare to deploy a Remote Environmental Measuring Units-100 unmanned submersible to collect images with its side-scan sonar during exercise Northern Coasts 2019 in Putlos, Germany, on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (Travis Simmons/U.S. Navy)
An explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8 sets up an EOD remote-controlled robot for a mission involving a simulated maritime improvised explosive device during exercise Northern Coasts in Putlos, Germany, on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019.
An explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8 sets up an EOD remote-controlled robot for a mission involving a simulated maritime improvised explosive device during exercise Northern Coasts in Putlos, Germany, on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. (Travis Simmons/U.S. Navy)
Explosive ordnance disposal technicians assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8 recover a mine reference buoy in the waters off Korsor, Denmark, on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, during exercise Northern Coasts.
Explosive ordnance disposal technicians assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8 recover a mine reference buoy in the waters off Korsor, Denmark, on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, during exercise Northern Coasts. (Travis Simmons/U.S. Navy)
Clearance divers from the Royal Canadian Navy's Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic conduct mine clearance operations during exercise Northern Coasts in Nyborg, Denmark, on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019.
Clearance divers from the Royal Canadian Navy's Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic conduct mine clearance operations during exercise Northern Coasts in Nyborg, Denmark, on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (Travis Simmons/U.S. Navy)

U.S. divers used underwater drones to find and clear simulated mines and submerged explosives in a NATO exercise that seeks to boost security in the Baltic Sea area, where Russia has grown more active. Eighteen countries, 40 vessels and 3,000 personnel are participating in this year’s two-week Northern Coasts exercise in the Danish straits, which link the Baltic Sea and the North Sea.

“The Baltic Sea is of vital importance for the Alliance and is bordered by six NATO countries,” NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the security environment in the region has deteriorated after Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and its continuing military-build-up.”

Northern Coasts, which runs until Thursday, is not only a show of force to potential adversaries, but also provides troops with tactical training, NATO officials said in a statement.

In this year’s exercise scenario, a fictitious country made territorial claims over islands in the Baltic Sea and used naval forces to threaten freedom of navigation.

Allies and partner nations countered the simulated threat through a coordinated effort that included maritime surveillance, naval combat, air-defense, anti-submarine warfare and mine clearance.

Sailors used underwater drones to detect, identify and take images of threats, and then cleared simulated mines and improvised explosives from the shore and the water, the Navy said.

Unmanned submersibles, such as the torpedo-like Remote Environmental Measuring Unit, or REMUS-100, help cut the time divers have to spend in dangerous waters, reducing the risk of loss of life, it said.

Mine warfare continues to be waged throughout the world, and nations work together in exercises like Northern Coasts to practice neutralizing these underwater threats so commanders know where to direct landing forces, the Navy said.

Two U.S. units — Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8 from Rota, Spain, and Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 based in Virginia Beach, Va. — worked alongside allies in the mine-clearance exercises.

As Russia grows more assertive, it has become increasingly important for the U.S. and its allies and partners to combine forces to safeguard the Baltic region, Adm. James Foggo, head of Naval Forces Europe and Africa, has said.

“We must commit and invest in a robust and capable naval presence to maintain regional stability,” Foggo wrote Friday in an Atlantic Council newsletter. “Not doing so could be far more costly.”

wyland.scott@stripes.com Twitter: @wylandstripes

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