The key to security in the region lies in effective mutual cooperation and increased allied presence, said the Baltic defence ministers Sven Mikser (Estonia), Raimonds Vējonis (Latvia) and Juozas Olekas (Lithuania) after a meeting in Panevežys, Lithuania yesterday.
At their regular meeting, the ministers credited that NATO allies, led by the US, with the “decisive” contribution to strengthening NATO’s deterrent stance and set a goal of complete implementation of the security plan adopted at NATO’s Wales Summit by the next such meeting, in Warsaw in 2016.
For the first time, the Ukrainian defence minister, Gen. Stepan Poltorak, also took part at the meeting of Baltic defence ministers. Mikser said the tone in the discussions was set by continuing Russian Federation aggression and the strained security situation in Ukraine and the region in general.
“NATO and the European Union have shown good readiness and solidarity in confronting conventional and non-conventional dangers. Our most powerful weapons in defending common values are truth and cooperation,” said Mikser.
The defence ministers also discussed prioritizing the development of certain military capabilities. The ministers mentioned improving training opportunities and ensuing the best possible host nation support for NATO forces; air defences were also a topic discussed.
“The increased activity of Russian Federation planes in the Baltic Sea region has shown that it is necessary to provide air security from two bases – we all agree that allied aircraft should be based in both Ämari and Šiauliai,” Mikser said.
The defence ministers signed a joint declaration after the meeting in which they assumed joint aims for strengthening defence cooperation.
They approved the updated principles of Baltic defence cooperation, which should facilitate coordination between different fields (including training, exercises, capability planning, joint procurements) and support regional cooperation with both northern and southern neighbours. Baltic defence cooperation has become closer in recent years, with joint activities now taking place both on the Nordic front and with the most influential ally in the region, Poland.
In the joint declaration, the defence ministers emphasized their support for Ämari Air Base becoming the regional training centre for NATO air force elements. They also praised the creation of the joint Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian staff element to strengthen cooperation in defence-related planning.
They said it was important to continue public condemnation of the annexation of Crimea and affirmed multifaceted support for Ukraine in the battle for independence and territorial integrity.