Defense chiefs request permanent NATO presence in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ({{commentsTotal}})

The three Baltic countries are planning to ask for the permanent presence of NATO troops on their soil, Capt. Mindaugas Neimontas, spokesman for Lithuania's chief of defense, told Reuters on Thursday. The troops would serve as further deterrent against Russia, which has been conducting an increasing number of military drills in the region.

According to Neimontas, the Baltic states will ask for 700-800 men units to be permanently stationed in each country on a rotational basis.

Poland too is considering a similar request, although General Stanislaw Koziej, head of the National Security Bureau, told Reuters that Warsaw's position could change before the summit – for example, in the unlikely event that Russia were to comply with the Minsk peace agreement for eastern Ukraine.

Estonian Defense Forces spokesman Roland Murof told that Estonia, in cooperation with Latvia and Lithuania, is in the course of preparing a request for more NATO troops in the region.

"It's important to note that while the focus is primarily on the infantry, we are also negotiating air and naval capacities," Murof said. "Russia sees NATO as its main nemesis and this has put the Baltic countries on the front line, so to say. Hence, NATO's deterrence needs to involve real military presence and advance presence of the equipment."

The Baltic countries currently host NATO's air policing mission and a rotating unit of 150 US troops each. The latter are mainly involved in various drills and training exercises, including Estonia's largest ever mobilization exercise Hedgehog (Siil) that concludes this week.

According to Murof, the exercise proved that Estonia is capable of fending off first attacks to its sovereignty, but the events in Ukraine show that the presence of the Allies is vital to ensuring effective deterrence and a swift reaction.

Editor: M. Oll

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