NATO extends Baltic air policing mission
NATO has decided to extend its air policing mission over the Baltic states until 2018. The mission provides Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, who do not own air surveillance capabilities, with the support of other NATO member states. It was launched in 2004 after the accession of the three countries to NATO. The Baltic NATO members however aim to attain a permanent character for the mission. The mission, based at the Lithuanian air base in Zokniai, has previously drawn on the participation of twelve Allies, among others the US, the UK and Germany.
Considering this initiative as a good example for the concept of smart defence, Lithuanian Defence Minister Rasa Jukneviciene told AFP: “Those countries which come here to participate [in the air patrols] will have an opportunity to exercise and to get to know this region, and we will have security over our heads, a secure airspace.” With regard to the financial aspect of air policing, Artis Pabriks, her Latvian counterpart said to AFP: “It’s much easier if someone else is doing air policing in our airspace, and at the same time we contribute our forces and capabilities somewhere else.” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said: “This mission continues to demonstrate the Alliance’s commitment to collective defence and solidarity for all its members.”
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