The North Atlantic Council that convened in Brussels today decided to extend the air security operation of the Baltic States for an indefinite time period.
According to the decision, the fighters of the NATO member countries will defend the air space of the Baltic countries on a permanent basis and there is no final deadline of the operation. Similarly to the procedure that has been effective since 2004, the fighter planes securing the Baltic air space will continue to be stationed in the Baltic air force bases.
According to the Minister of Defence, Mart Laar, it is difficult to overemphasise NATO's decision that was made today. “Estonia has in cooperation with the allies achieved a major advancement in enhancing the security in the entire Baltic Sea region and in ensuring a believable discouragement,” said Minister of Defence Laar.
According to Mr Laar, today's decision means that Estonia would not need to develop, from scratch, an expensive and complex fighting air force capability. “Instead we can focus on the development of capabilities which are accomplishable for Estonia and essential for basic defence capability. However, for Estonian population NATO’s air security operation is a clear sign of the presence of NATO, “said Mr Laar.
“Our thanks go to those diplomats and members of the Defence Forces of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania whose hard work and efforts resulted in this decision of NATO,” said the Minister of Defence.
However, the Baltic States cannot just relax now. “We will have to ensure that the fighters of the allies will continue to have our support, in the form of both proper air bases as well as training facilities. For Estonia this means primarily the development of the Ämari air base,“ said Minister of Defence Laar.
NATO’s fighters have secured the Baltic air space since April 2004. Currently the fighters are stationed in the Šiauliai air base in Lithuania. The Baltic air space is currently defended by German fighter planes.