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Estonia would like NATO Baltic mission rotated as soon as possible

Prancūzų „Mirage 2000“ ir danų F-16 ore virš Zoknių
Andriaus Vaitkevičiaus / 15min nuotr. / .
Šaltinis: BNS
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While currently NATO air-policing mission in the Baltics is carried out from northern Lithuania, Estonia would like to see a decision made as soon as possible on rotating the mission base among all three Baltic states, according to an official of the Defense Ministry.

However, Lithuanian Minister of National Defense Rasa Juknevičienė says that Vilnius is not considering this option.

After the changeover ceremony of the countries performing the mission at the Lithuanian Air Force Aviation Base in Šiauliai, Estonian Defense Ministry's Undersecretary for Political Affairs Sven Sakkov said Estonia wanted NATO fighter jets to be stationed in his country.

"On your question whether Estonia would like to see it rotating - we do. We think that burdens and risks associated with NATO air-policing and other missions has to be equally shared among the countries involved, or more equally shared than it has been now. Estonia is ready to do its part. The modalities have to be agreed, we're in the process of that. So I can very clearly declare that Estonia is interested in also hosting NATO air-policing in the future, because I think it is also a duty to do it," Sakkov told journalists.

"Our desire is to get it decided as soon as possible. But we are not the only party in that. Again I would not speculate about the dates here right now," he said.

Asked whether Estonia saw any understanding on the Lithuanian side, the official replied: "I think we see very well-functioning cooperation among the Baltic states."

The Lithuanian defense minister told journalists Lithuania was not considering moving the mission to Estonia and noted that it was an issue "10-15 years" away.

"I cannot comment on any reality here. Lithuania has not considered and is not considering such things. And if Estonia and Latvia had capacities for partners in this mission to fly and train there, then, of course, it would be a natural thing. The bigger the capacities of Latvia and Estonia, the stronger Lithuania is," the minister said when she was asked to comment on whether there were talks about moving the mission to Estonia.

She added that such discussions "are not a new thing."

"I can’t say anything today. (…) I cannot really talk now about future events that might take place in 10-15 years," Juknevičienė said when asked whether the air policing mission would be based in Lithuania for ever.

Lithuania has been cautious about Estonia's proposals. Chief of Defense Lieutenant General Arvydas Pocius said in May it was necessary to consider whether it was sensible to duplicate projects, especially in the light of “smart defense” concept emphasized by NATO.

Juknevičienė had also stated earlier that rotation would increase the costs of the air-policing mission "considerably."

BNS
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