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NATO EXTENDS AIR POLICING MISSION IN BALTIC STATES (BNS, 8 February 2012)

Created: 2012.02.09 / Updated: 2012.02.09 20:42

VILNIUS, Feb 08, BNS – NATO on Wednesday decided to extend the Baltic Air Policing mission which has so far had a mandate until 2014. Ambassadors in Brussels formally agreed that it would be a long-term mission with regular reviews, and did not set a final deadline. Meanwhile the Baltic states committed themselves to increasing their contribution. The document itself is classified. But sources told BNS it says mission reviews will take place beyond 2018. "I warmly welcome today’s decision by the North Atlantic Council to further authorize NATO Air Policing in the Baltic States with a continuous presence of fighters," NATO Secretary General Andersas Foghas Rasmussenas said in a statement on Wednesday.

In his words, this mission continues to demonstrate "the Alliance’s commitment to collective defense and solidarity for all its members".

"Collaboration in air policing also exemplifies the kind of cooperation among Allies that will become increasingly important in the future, as we reconcile our security requirements with budgetary realities. This is the spirit of Smart Defence, which I expect to become a guiding principle for NATO at our Chicago Summit in May," he said.

In Lithuanian Minister of National Defense Rasa Jukneviciene's words, the North Atlantic Council on Wednesday "confirmed a military proposal for the air policing mission in the Baltic states to be long-term with certain regular review."

"There's no deadline. It will be a long-term mission with certain reviews, and the Baltic states have made commitments to increase the share of support of the host country," Jukneviciene told BNS on Wednesday.

The minister added that Lithuania had already submitted proposals on increased support for the mission but negotiations would still be held on this issue.

"It's a great example of smart defense when countries with different capabilities can put them together and enjoy the benefit. Those countries which will come here for the mission will have exercise opportunities, will be able to get acquainted with this region, and we'll have security above our heads, a safe air space," Jukneviciene said.

"I am really delighted that some countries changed their attitude for the better. I would like to mention the Netherlands the minister of which made a very positive decision, and the Netherlands shifted from being skeptical about the mission to becoming a supporter, and I even hope it will take part in the mission in the future," Jukneviciene said.

Previously some officials suggested that NATO should formally extend the mission until 2018 but the Baltic states wanted specific deadlines to be abolished altogether.

Lithuania and other Baltic states don't have air policing assets. Based on the decision by the North Atlantic Council, since March 2004, when the Baltic States joined NATO, the 24/7 task to police the airspace of the Baltic States has been conducted on three-month rotation from Lithuania's First Air Base in Zokniai/Siauliai International Airport.

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