NATO: Baltic air policing mission will be cut (12)

NATO announced that the alliance's air policing mission over the Baltics will be cut from 16 to 8 fighter jets, although the cuts will not affect Ämari air base in Estonia where 4 aircraft will remain.
8/5/2015 10:15 AM
Category: Defense

NATO spokesman told ERR the alliance's air policing mission over the Baltics will be cut from 16 to 8 fighter jets, although the cuts will not affect Ämari.

According to the Estonian Defense Ministry, it is a military planning decision, not a political one.

The news was broken by a piece in British newspaper The Guardian. But Liis Mure, deputy head of NATO and EU affairs at the ministry, said the piece is not entirely correct. "The strengthened Baltic air mission is part of a wider NATO deterrence package which was approved by heads of state at the Wales summit and that decision is yet to be changed. The approval of the Baltic nations is needed to change that,” she said.

Mure added that the alliance simply does not have the necessary jets.

NATO spokesman Carmen Romero told ETV that from September 1, only eight military jets will guard the Baltic's skies. She said the Baltics do not need 16 fighters and NATO has decided that eight is enough. She said that is still double the four fighters which guarded the Baltics before the Ukraine conflict.

The decision means Ämari will still have four jets. The number in Lithuania will be cut from eight to four and the base in Malbork, Poland, will have none.

Lieutenant Colonel Riivo Valge, head of the Estonian Air Force headquarters, said eight is enough for the Baltics, and there is no need to worry.

“When the deterrence measures kicked in, the first number to increase was the number of jets. Now we have ground forces present, as well as NATO navy units and eight aircraft is in principle enough for the air policing mission, and the combined NATO force will increase, not decrease,” Valge said.

He said experience has shown that if the situation gets intense, more aircraft can quickly be moved here.

J.M. Laats

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