Amid increased frequency of Russian army provocations in the Baltic Sea, NATO will step up presence of its forces there in 2015, says Commander Maritime Command at NATO Headquarters Vice-Admiral Peter Hudson.
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During a visit in Lithuania earlier this week, Hudson told BNS that the key message after the NATO summit in Wales is the need for reforms that would allow faster NATO response to various threats, including threats in the sea.

"We need to make sure about readiness, our ability to deploy forces, responsiveness of NATO," said the vice-admiral.

He acknowledged that when it comes to the infrastructure for hosting NATO forces, the Baltic states still have a lot of room for improvement, especially in fields of air-space defense, for example, development of airports. In Hudson's words, it is necessary for member-states to be able to host response forces that have been agreed upon during the NATO summit. However, he had no remarks for Lithuania about the navy.

"We just need to reassure ourselves, that port facilities are available. Frankly, they are pretty good [...]. Maritime is reasonably relaxed, there's more work perhaps through some other areas," said Hudson.

The British officer said that current plans include revision of 2015 exercise schedules to "continue to keep a strong, heavy presence in the Baltic with standing naval forces."

Hudson noted an increased frequency of Russian provocations and efforts to hinder navigation in international waters of the Baltic Sea. In his words, the same actions were reported in the Black and the Mediterranean Seas or even the Pacific Ocean.

He said this is part of Russia's efforts "to cause inconveniences" to the West and "to send a message for their own internal audience." This is why it the presence of NATO forces is important to keep security of territorial waters of member-states, as well as safe navigation.

Asked to specify the strengths and weaknesses of the Lithuanian Navy, Hudson said it is up to Lithuanian army to decide on balancing its forces without advise from NATO representatives. He also assured that Lithuania is the most dedicated participant of NATO exercises among all three Baltic states.

"The Lithuanian Navy's ability and its high proficiency in delivering mine countermeasure vessels is very welcome to NATO. Your colleagues in Latvia and in Estonia had real bother doing this initiative capabilities in NATO," Hudson said.

Speaking about further perspectives of NATO-Russian relations, he said everything is up to Russia, which annexed a part of a sovereign country and is aggressively interfering with Ukraine's domestic affairs. He recalled that it is Russia that supplies arms and munitions, thus provoking a civil war.

"NATO's priority is to make sure, that the security of the NATO members is not compromised by the behavior of Russia. And that's what we will try to do," said Hudson.

BNS
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