NATO chief: Military activity has increased in Baltic Sea region
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday in Brussels that military activity in the Baltic Sea region has increased and stressed the importance of transparency and predictability in preventing incidents and accidents.
"What we see in the Baltic Sea is increased military activity and we see it on land, at sea and in the air," Stoltenberg said at a meeting of NATO defense ministers in which Minister of Defence Jüri Luik also took part. "And that just underlines the importance of transparency and predictability to prevent incidents and accidents, and, if they happen, of making sure that they don't spiral out of control and create really dangerous situations.
He noted that NATO emphasizes the importance of respecting different arrangements, such as the Vienna Document, "which requires transparency and predictability but also international observations of military exercises."
According to Stoltenberg, NATO exercises are transparents and Russia should also be transparent with their exercises.
"We are also focused on the isssue of air safety," he continued. "And first I would like to underline that the vast majority of intercepts in the Baltic Sea region, or over the Baltic Sea, are done in a professional and safe manner on both sides. So I think it is important not to mix intercepts, which are a normal procedure to identify unidentified planes, with dangerous situations."
According to the NATO chief, intercepting planes is a normal activity, and some intercepts are conducted in an unprofessional and sometimes unsafe way. "Therefore we are focused on how we can improve air safety over the Baltic region," he said.
Stoltenberg noted that he welcomed Finland's initiative to convene meetings and a group of experts encompassing Sweden, Finland, the Baltic states, NATO and certain other organizations and countries.
Luik to Stoltenberg: NATO presence strong, could be stronger
Luik met with Stoltenberg on Wednesday, with whom he discussed the presence of allied forces in Estonia.
"As a host country, Estonia is thankful to NATO allies for stationing a battle group [here] to protect our security," the Estonian defense minister said. "The arrival of the battle group was the start of a long period of work."
Luik and Stoltenberg also discussed the priorities of Estonia's EU presidency, which is to begin on Saturday, as well as discussed the possibilities of strengthening EU-NATO cooperation, including in the field of cyber security.
Likewise touched upon were the security issues of the Baltic Sea region, including attitudes toward the annual large-scale joint Russian-Belarusian military exercise Zapad, which is to take place this September.
Editor: Aili Vahtla