Estonian defense minister: Danish fighters, frigate are powerful deterrent
Denmark's decision to bring a naval frigate and four additional F-16 fighter jets to the Baltic states is a strong deterrent to Russia and shows NATO's unity, Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet (Reform) said.
Speaking to ERR on Tuesday, Laanet said the fighter jets will be based in Siauliai, Lithuania and the frigate will patrol the Baltic Sea for three months. He said discussions started in December.
The F-16s will join the eight already stationed at Siauliai as part of the NATO Air Policing unit, the minister said, and he expects they will stay until the end of Denmark's rotation.
Asked what this will add to regional security, Laanet said: "This is an extremely strong deterrent message to Russia, which shows that we are united. This shows that the West is united. Different countries enhance their security and, through it, the security of their neighbors. If Russia's main goal is to divide allies, what Denmark has done with its decisions today shows that, in reality, there is a trend towards strengthening the allies."
The defense minister said discussions are also ongoing with the Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) to bring more resources to the Baltics. "There are no final decisions and no results to show today, but we are in a number of negotiations, notably in the context of the eFP," he said.
Speaking about the U.S.A.'s commitment to the region and the possibility of a compromise between Russia on security issues in the Baltic States, Laanet said he did not think this was a possibility.
"I am of the opinion that NATO is united, the United States is one of NATO's most important countries, as are Estonia and the other Baltic states. And as long as NATO is united, I do not think it is possible to discuss such proposals at all. These are completely unacceptable proposals," he told ERR.
The minister said is "absolutely convinced" the U.S. is committed to protecting the Baltic states.
Discussing the Russia-NATO Council meeting on Wednesday, Laanet said he expects "very clear" messages from the allies. "In other words, all member states, as well as neighboring countries where necessary, are protected," he said in summary.
On Monday, the Danish Ministry of Defense agreed to send the 160-strong naval frigate Peter Willemoes and four F-16 fighters to the Baltic region to strengthen regional security. The frigate Peter Willemoes will set off in mid-January and the fighter jets will arrive in late January.
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Editor: Helen Wright