NATO's decision to downsize the air policing mission by half will not affect the security of the three Baltic states, says Lithuania's Defence Minister Juozas Olekas.
Juozas Olekas
© DELFI / Mindaugas Ažušilis

In his words, the decision was made to make rational use of funds and capacities.

"I think (security) will not be affected. With the capacities that will be assigned it will be ensured," Olekas told BNS on Tuesday.

In his words, Lithuania is currently founding a NATO Force Integration Unit, companies of Allied troops have been stationed in Lithuania since last year, with plans to deploy heavy US equipment in 2016.

"All this will require calculations," said Olekas.

Lithuania's Ministry of National Defence has told BNS that Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia provide every incoming Allied contingent with broad support of the hosting country, also ensuring logistical assistance and spending an overall of up to 15 million euros per year on the functions.

The minister has noted that no violations of the air space have been lately reported above the Baltic states but there "were many accompanying flights". For the past two years, NATO has been observing increased activity of Russian aircrafts in the international air space above the Baltic Sea. Meanwhile, Estonian authorities said back in June that a Russian transport airplane An-26 had entered the country's air space for under a minute.

NATO will downsize the air policing mission in the Baltic states by half, with eight fighter-jets due to patrol the skies as of September, as compared with the current 16 jets, as well as one contingent left in Lithuania instead of the current two, NATO military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jay Janzen of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) confirmed on Tuesday.

Since the three Baltic states NATO in 2004, the NATO air policing mission was usually performed by four jets stationed in Lithuania. After Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula last year, NATO Allies sent additional jets to the three countries.

Lithuania's Ministry of National Defence told BNS on Tuesday that the issue of sending back-up to Šiauliai was "currently being coordinated with NATO officials and Allies".

BNS
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