US and Estonia agree to Lithuania border information exchange
Estonia and its key ally the United States are to exchange information regularly on the situation on Lithuania's borders, the Ministry of Defense says.
Kusti Salm, permanent secretary at the ministry said Friday that: "It is important for us that our key allies, such as the U.S., share the same understanding of the situation on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border, which has an impact on both the Baltic states and Europe more broadly."
During a phone conversation with U.S. Under Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Defense, Colin Kahl, Kalm agreed on regular exchanges of information on developments at the Lithuanian-Belarusian border.
The security situation of all three Baltic States has changed in connection with the current surge in the number of migrants entering Lithuania illegally, on some days in the hundreds per day, a phenomenon which President Kersti Kaljulaid has referred to as hybrid warfare which affects the EU and NATO as a whole.
The annual large-scale military exercise, Zapad ("West" in Russian) starts soon and will see the continuation in place of Russian armed forces deployed on the Ukrainian border in spring, as well as Belarusian and other Russian forces.
Belarus' hybrid attack on Lithuania, whose capital, Vilnius, lies only around 30 km from the border, is aimed at destabilizing the southernmost Baltic State, and destroying unity between the NATO allies.
The role of Russia in the current situation needs to be examined in more detail, both Kahl and Salm agreed Friday.
More optimistically, the pair deemed this year's NATO summit in Brussels in June a success and heralded both Estonia's cooperation with the U.S. and its other NATO and EU allies, and its own domestic defense program, which focuses on coastal and maritime defense, as well as field artillery, armored infantry and cyber warfare.
The many concrete examples of U.S. commitment in recent years include the deployment from German of Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), a mass para drop over Järva County, a large-scale cyber exercise, Hunt Forward, the loaning of an MQ-9 drone to Ämari Air Base, and many flyovers of U.S. Air Force aircraft, including McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagles, Boeing B-52 Strategic bombers and Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. U.S. special forces are also thought to have had an increase in activity on Estonian soil in recent months.
Estonia has sent material such as barbed wire and tents to Lithuania to aid in the crisis.
Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!
Editor: Andrew Whyte