Baltic defense ministers discuss preparations for upcoming NATO summit

Baltic infantry battalion BALTBAT participated in the annual Spring Storm military exercise in Estonia. May 15, 2016. (Sander Mändoja/mil.ee)
5/23/2016 9:53 PM
Source: BNS
Category: News

Meeting on the Estonian island of Saaremaa on Monday, the Baltic States’ three respective Ministers of Defence discussed preparations for the upcoming Warsaw NATO Summit on July 8-9, the security situation in the Baltic Sea region, supporting Georgia and Ukraine, and defense cooperation between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

According to Ministry of Defence spokespeople, Estonian Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso, who met with Latvian Minister of Defence Raimonds Bergmanis and Lithuanian Minister of National Defence Juozas Olekas, noted that the three of them are working together to strengthen NATO’s stance of deterrence in the Baltic Sea region.

“Our assessment of the world security situation coincides perfectly and we are ready to protect our values together,” said Hanso. “Russia’s aggressive and unpredictable actions continue to be dangerous and pose a strategic challenge to all NATO allies. Therefore the adjustment of NATO policy in our region is critical in accepting this challenge and for the mitigation of military risks. Our joint goal is the strengthening of the alliance’s stance on defense and deterence at the NATO Warsaw Summit, which means increasing allied presence on land, in the air, and at sea.”

The three defense ministers discussed how to simplify and accelerate the movement of allied forces and their equipment to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. “Figuratively speaking, allied tanks need to be able to reach Estonia visa-free, not wait for days on the border as their documents are drawn up,” said Hanso.

“We support NATO’s open-doors policy,” he continued. “In the current security situation, it is extremely important to continue security cooperation and consultations with Georgia and Ukraine.” Estonia has supported both countries with cyber defense-related expertise, advised on defense reforms and helped carry out training.

Following the meeting, the three defense ministers signed a joint communiqué before continuing on to visit the Baltic Workboats shipyard and a war museum in Hanso’s native Orissaare, on Saaremaa’s northeastern coast.

In the evening, they departed from Kuressaare Airport on a Lithuanian Air Force plane and flewon to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, where they planned to meet with Georgian Minister of Defense Tinatin Khidasheli and speak at a Georgian security conference.

Current long-term defense cooperation projects between the three Baltic States include the integrated Baltic Air Surveillance Network (BALTNET), the joint mine countermeasure Baltic Naval Squadron (BALTRON), the Tartu-based Baltic Defence College (BALTDEFCOL), and the joint Baltic infantry battalion (BALTBAT).

Editor: Aili Sarapik

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