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Baltic Defence Ministers announced new defence cooperation initiatives
On December 2 Lithuanian Minister of National Defence Rasa Juknevičienė, Estonian Defence Minister Mart Laar and Latvian Defence Minister Artis Pabriks agreed on new initiatives aimed at developing and enhancing military cooperation of the Baltic States.
Ministers signed a Communiqué on Trilateral Cooperation and an agreement to increase the appeal of the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission to the allies deploying their troops and aircraft on the mission.
“A decision was endorsed to change the format of the present military cooperation and to adjust it to the structure of the Nordic defence cooperation. Coordination of legal aspects of the agreement are now passed to the corresponding specialists,” said R. Juknevičienė. According to Minister, the decision was a crucial point in the pursuit of integrating defence sector with the Nordic countries.
“I am also happy to announce that Ministers endorsed two new initiatives of the Baltic defence cooperation. The first one covers sharing national infrastructures for training purposes and specialisation of training areas (BALTTRAIN). The second initiative foresees collective formation of contingents (up to battalion’s size) for standby in the NATO Response Force”, said R. Juknevičienė after the meeting.
Moreover, Ministers expressed their appreciation of the cooperation project launched between the special operations forces of Latvia and Lithuania this year. Another decision agreed on was to conduct joint procurement of means of transportation, individual military equipment and ammunition.
Plan of military training events for the following 5 years was presented for the first time in the history of Baltic military cooperation. Ministers backed the aspiration of the Energy Security Centre in Lithuania to become the NATO Centre of Excellence and agreed to invite other allies to contribute to the activities of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Estonia.
It was the first meeting of the Baltic Defence Ministers involving colleagues from Poland: in Kaunas Poland was represented by Vice Minister of Defence for Defence Policy Zbigniew Włosowicz.
“Presence of our colleagues from Poland in this meeting demonstrates a strong intention of the four countries to cooperate and testifies for the fact that ensuring security of the Baltic States is inseparable from the security of Poland, likewise, Poland needs the Baltic States to be secure,” said Lithuanian Minister. According to R.Juknevičienė, information on military capabilities of neighboring non-NATO countries concentrated around the Baltic States was shared with the Polish colleagues and defence plans were discussed.
Defence Minister of Estonia M. Laar said he had been happy to visit the historical resistance fighters’ bunker of Minaičiai on December 1.
“It is the part of the history we must preserve”, he said. Minister stressed that this meeting was a turning point towards practical Baltic cooperation in defence area.
The meeting was also attended by Chief of Defence of Lithuania Lt Gen Arvydas Pocius and Chief of Defence of Latvia Maj Gen Raimondas Graube.
Baltic Defence Ministers’ meetings are held biannually. The recent meeting took place this spring in Liepaja, Latvia.
Cooperation of the Baltic States dates back to the re-establishment of independence of all the three countries, the first agreement on defence cooperation was signed in 1992. On the basis of collaboration Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia develop the following major trilateral projects: the Baltic Air Surveillance Network BALTNET, the Baltic Naval Squadron BALTRON responsible for mine clearance in the territorial Baltic Sea, and allocate personnel and financing for the NATO’s Baltic Defence College BALTDEFCOL.
Joint projects in military planning are undertaken and joint international exercises are held as well. In the first half of 2010 trilateral Baltic Battalion BALTBAT conducted standby in the NATO Response Force (NRF). In the future legal basis is foreseen to be provided for standing trilateral units designed for standby in NRF and the EU Battle Groups.