Baltic air defence needs more permanent basis says retired UK air chief

F-16 Fighting Falcons of the Ohio Air National Guard at Ämari Air Base in January this year
F-16 Fighting Falcons of the Ohio Air National Guard at Ämari Air Base in January this year Source: Ardi Hallismaa/

Russia's airborne forces currently have a practically free rein over the Baltic Sea, according to retired UK Air Marshal Sir Christopher Harper. This means that a more permanent air base is needed in the region than the current Baltic Air Policing mission, which includes aircraft stationed at the Ämari Air Base in Estonia.

According to the former NATO Director-General of the International Military Staff, and speaking on ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera", defence of the three Baltic States' airspace is vital and is also dependent on the cooperation of Finland and Sweden.

''Defence of any NATO ally is a critical component of alliance philosophy...we consider Article 5 absolutely sacrosanct,'' said Harper.

Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty signed in 1949 concerns collective security of member states. It was first invoked after the 9/11 attacks on the US in 2001.

Air Marshal Harper went on to say that at the moment airspace defence over the Baltic States is pretty weak. The principal issue is a poor level of compatibility between the Baltic States' airspace and that of the remaining NATO states, with airspace surveillance also leaving a lot to be desired, in Harper's opinion.

This also limits the capability of other NATO states' air forces to help the Baltic States in the event of urgent need, he believes.

''In the event that there was a meaningful threat to this region from Russian air forces, we would need to be able to bolster that capability up a to a valid air defence posture,'' he explained.

In order to ensure adequate air defence for the Baltic States, both they and NATO need to work together, according to Harper. This means that air defence needs to have a significant place in defence budgets, he went on.

Air Marshal Harper does not expect a strong air and missile defence to be built up in the Baltic States overnight, but instead that compatibility with the other NATO states can certainly be improved.

The original clip (in Estonian) is here.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: ERR Uudised

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