Foreign Minister Urmas Paet welcomed the suggestion made at the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting to increase the number of planes in the Baltic Air Policing mission, and suggested Ämari near Tallinn as the site for a prospective permanent NATO base in the Baltic states.
“The Ämari airbase is ready to permanently participate in the Baltic Air Policing Mission,” he told ETV in Brussels on Tuesday.
“Things are moving in the direction that next to Šiauliai [in Lithuania], Ämari could become a permanent defense center for policing Baltic air space,” said Paet, adding that the commander of NATO forces in Europe said an additional airfield is needed for the enhanced air patrols, and Paet suggested Ämari.
After Russia’s invasion of Crimea, NATO has enhanced the air policing mission. Instead of the usual four fighters, 10 US fighters are policing Baltic airspace. The United Kingdom, Denmark, Portugal, France and Germany have indicated that they are ready to send additional planes.
However, Paet said a long-term and permament NATO presence in the Baltics is necessary, merely reacting to crises as they erupt is not enough.
As a counterweight to Russia, NATO now needs to work on closer ties with Ukraine and Georgia, Paet said.
In Paet’s view, Russia has breached international law and violated the NATO-Russia cooperation agreement by invading Crimea. The 1997 charter on a "Distinctive Partnership" is the basis for relations between the two, and states that neither party will use force against the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of each other or third countries.