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Lithuania rejects Polish reproaches regarding insufficient support for NATO air policing mission

Prancūzų „Mirage 2000“ ir danų F-16 ore virš Zoknių
Andriaus Vaitkevičiaus / 15min nuotr. / Prancūzų „Mirage 2000“ ir danų F-16 ore virš Zoknių
Šaltinis: BNS
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Lithuanian Vice-Minister of National Defense Vytautas Umbrasas has said reproaches in the Polish press regarding Lithuania's improper support for troops of the NATO Air Policing mission, deployed in Šiauliai, are unfounded.

Citing unidentified sources, the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza wrote on Tuesday that Lithuania failed to properly cover expenses related to the presence of foreign planes and pilots in Šiauliai.

"I believe these statements do not match the reality as we spend really much. All three Baltic states spend pretty generously – now around 3 million euros – on the air policing mission. Lithuania's share in the total amount of 3 million euros is a little larger than those of other two Baltic states, standing at around 1.26 million euros," Umbrasas told BNS.

One unnamed Polish diplomat has said that Polish troops are getting hotel, fuel, and water bills.

Lithuanian army officers in charge of host nation support say that every country carrying out the air policing mission receives an equal sum of EUR 100,000 to cover accommodation expenses. Lithuania provides all information it has about possible accommodation locations, and representatives of a country in charge of the mission choose hotels. Officers say so far nobody has expressed a wish for Lithuania to book hotels instead of transferring money, as in cases of smaller contingents not all the money is used.

Lithuania provides water for NATO troops in 18-liter containers and not in bottles, therefore, the majority of troops buy water themselves.

Officers also say that Lithuania pays for fuel used by planes to fly into and out of the country, which is an additional burden for countries carrying out the mission.

Umbrasas said Lithuania and the other Baltic states plan to further increase support package for incoming NATO troops by 2015.

"We made a decision in 2011 to increase expenditure by 4 million euros by 2015. There have been requests from some countries for us to increase host nation support after the extension of the air policing mission, and all Baltic states are now considering doing so," he said.

"There are always problems with figures. Perhaps some other expenses are calculated but the Baltic states cannot cover some national expenses, for example, for the maintenance of fighter jets or staff. That's the countries' national responsibility. It doesn't matter where the fighter jets are, countries maintain them, be it in the Polish territory or somewhere else. I don’t know journalists' way of calculating, but I don’t think these accusations are correct," the vice-minister said.

Polish diplomats mentioned in the Gazeta Wyborcza's article refer only to Lithuania, although the Baltic Air Policing mission is supported by joint efforts of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

"I believe that, at least now, we stand out - in a good way. Our contribution is slightly larger than those of the other Baltic states, but we have Šiauliai and there are a lot of additional functions that we have to take care of, for example, ice removal procedures. These are also expenses. Latvians plan to increase their contribution in 2013," Umbrasas said.

He underlined that some countries, like Denmark, have no complaints regarding support for its contingent. But representatives of the Ministry of National Defense added that different countries' have different understanding of the appropriate size of support.

"We talk about that, but countries have different understandings and different needs. Let's say the Danes say a four-month rotation, additional expenses, if their staff and fighter jets are stationed here and not in Denmark, additionally cost 1 million euros. Other countries' figures are more expensive. But the general provision is that NATO wants our contribution to increase following the extension of the air policing mission until 2018 and beyond, and we are consistently doing that," the vice-minister said.

Poland is set to launch the fourth air policing mission in the Baltic states in late April. Four MIG-29 fighter jets from Malbork will protect the Baltic airspace.

Lithuanian Ministry of National Defense announced in February the Baltic states would increase their support for the Baltic Air Policing mission by 50 percent in the upcoming three years. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia spent around 2.2 million euros on the mission in 2011.

Information about Poland's threats to Lithuania regarding the air policing mission followed Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė's decision not to go to Poland to attend a meeting with the Baltic presidents, initiated by the Polish president.

Daiva Ulbinaitė, spokeswoman, later told BNS that President Grybauskaitė had been informed about "statements by Polish diplomats to Lithuanian diplomats that Poland might reconsider its position on the air policing mission, if ethnic minority problems were not solved."

BNS
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