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Defense minister: NATO to deploy additional forces to Baltics during Zapad

Minister of Defence Jüri Luik in Brussels. June 29, 2017.
Minister of Defence Jüri Luik in Brussels. June 29, 2017. Source: (ERR)

NATO is set to bring in additional military forces to the Baltic states for the duration of the annual joint Russian-Belarusian military exercise Zapad, Minister of Defence Jüri Luik said at a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels on Thursday.

"One topic that was discussed extensively during the meeting was the large-scale Russian military exercise Zapad, which is to take place in September," Luik said. "All NATO early warning systems are prepared to keep an eye on the exercise."

The Estonian minister said that this does not mean that the NATO battle groups stationed in the Baltic countries will be formed into a brigade, but that this kind of unit requires antiaircraft capability and logistical support. "The aim is to make the battle group, which in itself is not a large military force, more effective and self-confident and this requires a number of additional resources," he explained. "First and foremost this has to do with air defense, logistics and aerial support."

He added that NATO is exactly the kind of organization which handles issues like this which concern collective defense.

"We also know from numerous statements made by the United States that the U.S. is planning to deploy additional defense personnel to the Baltics," Luik continued. "Commander of U.S. Army Europe Lt. Gen. Hodges has spoken about this in detail."

The minister described these measures as justified. "NATO states will adopt additional measures for the duration of the large-scale exercise in order to send a clear signal that we are taking this seriously and have the military means against any kind of provocations," he stated.

Based on the decision made at the Warsaw Summit in 2016, NATO deployed international battalion-sized battle groups consisting of approximately 1,000 troops each to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland earlier this year. In Estonia, the NATO battle group is led by the U.K., in Latvia by Canada, in Lithuania by Germany and in Poland by the U.S.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS

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