The Baltics close ranks to reinforce detterence posture in the region

Ministers of Defence of the Baltic States, Juozas Olekas (Lithuania), Hannes Hanso (Estonia), and Raimonds Bergmanis (Latvia) Photo: Kam.lt
Ministers of Defence of the Baltic States, Juozas Olekas (Lithuania), Hannes Hanso (Estonia), and Raimonds Bergmanis (Latvia) Photo: Kam.lt

Ministers of Defense of the Baltic States, Juozas Olekas (Lithuania), Hannes Hanso (Estonia), and Raimonds Bergmanis (Latvia), today agreed concrete practical steps that would be taken in preparation to host enhanced forward-deployed NATO forces in the Baltics during a meeting of the Baltic Ministerial Committee in Kuressaare (Estonia).

The decision to enhance Allied forward presence in the Baltics is expected to be taken at the NATO Defence Ministers meeting and endorsed at the specified and endorsed at the NATO Summit in Warsaw.

“The enhancement of Allied forward presence in our region will be the most important decision for the Baltic States taken at the NATO Summit in Warsaw. It is wonderful to know that there is agreement in NATO capitals regarding the need for four battalion groups in the three Baltic States and Poland. In our turn, our responsibility is to make sure that once the decisions are taken at the NATO Summit, we are ready to immediately put them into practice,” Minister Olekas said at the meeting, as quoted in a press release of the Lithuanian Defense Ministry.

“Our assessment of the security situation in the world is the same and we are ready to jointly protect our values,” minister Hanso also said, in remarks carried by the Estonian Defense Ministry. “Russia’s aggressive and unpredictable actions continue to be dangerous and are a strategic calling for all NATO members. This is why the adjustment of NATO policy in our region is important, in order to accept the challenge and lower military risks. Our common goal is strengthening the protection and deterrence position of the Alliance at the NATO Summit in Warsaw, which means increasing the presence of Allies on land, in the air and at sea.”

The Ministers discussed how to simplify and speed up the process of moving NATO Allied forces and equipment to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.  “Figuratively speaking, our Allies military vehicles should be able to enter Estonia without a visa, not wait at the border for days until paperwork is formalized,” said Hanso.

At the meeting, the ministers also discussed the improvements of the Host Nation Support the Baltic States rendered for allied forces, including infrastructure and training conditions. The Ministers agreed to carry out a thorough analysis of different possibilities of using Baltic military training areas to the benefit of deployed allied forces. The Ministers paid particular attention to the coordination and further simplification of procedures for the movement of NATO forces in the region so as to facilitate it as much as possible.

Minister J. Olekas also underscored the support of the Baltic States to Georgia’s aspirations of Euro-Atlantic integration. “NATO should send a clear signal of standing support to Georgia at the Warsaw Summit that and assure it that there is no threat of way back on Georgia’s way of Euro-Atlantic integration. Separately and together we must look for more opportunities to convey more support for the implementation of the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package. I would also like to invite all of us to find opportunities to send military specialists and soldiers together to exercises in Georgia,” Minister J.Olekas said.

As Lithuania backs closer NATO-Georgia cooperation, a Lithuanian officer has been posted to the NATO-Georgia Joint Training and Evaluation Center opened in Tbilisi. Last month Lithuanian military instructors held a week-long course for Georgian officers and provided field catering for the participants.

Speaking of assistance to Ukraine, Minister J.Olekas pointed out political and practical assistance to the Ukrainian defense reform. The Baltic Defense Ministers agreed that NATO needed to launch NATO Comprehensive Assistance Package for Ukraine that would encompass full allied assistance for the country’s defense reform and capacity building.

The Lithuanian, Estonian and Latvian Defense Ministers signed a communication on further Baltic cooperation and common stance on the key security and defense issues.

After the meeting the Ministers will leave for Georgia to attend the Georgian Defense and Security Conference. Later the Baltic Defense Ministers will meet with Minister of Defense Georgia Tinatin Khidasheli to discuss security situation in the Baltic region and South Caucasus, Georgia’s NATO membership aspirations and security and defense reform underway, and prospects of bilateral and multilateral defense cooperation.