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, the Alliance's spokesman confirmed on Tuesday.
Antano Gedrimo nuotr.

"As of September 1, NATO will have eight aircraft assigned to the Baltic air-policing mission," NATO military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jay Janzen of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) told BNS on Tuesday.

"Right now we happen to have 16 aircrafts assigned to the mission but that's well above the military requirements that we established after the outbreak of the Russia - Ukraine crisis (...). We think that eight aircrafts are absolutely meeting the required number to conduct the air-policing mission," he said in a telephone interview.

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

Fighter-jets from two countries were lately stationed in the Lithuanian Aviation Base in Šiauliai. In Janzen's words, a decision has already been taken that four Hungarian Gripens would be deployed in Šiauliai between September and December, while four German Eurofighter Typhoons would be stationed in Estonia over the period. Allies will no longer send any jets to Poland for the mission.

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

"The Baltic states want the main contingent conducting the NATO air policing mission in Šiauliai to be backed up with additional capacities in Estonia and Lithuania. Lithuania seeks that another back-up should be sent to Šiauliai, as well, starting September or at a later date. The issue is currently being coordinated with NATO officials and Allies," the ministry said in a comment.

According to the communique, Lithuania along with 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.

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