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NATO to cut Baltic air patrols

August 4, 2015

NATO said on Tuesday that beginning in September it would be reducing the amount of air patrols in its Baltic mission, used to deter Russian aggression against NATO members Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

NATO Luftpatrouille Baltikum Baltic Air Policing Mission
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Kulbis

"As of the 1st of September NATO will have eight aircraft assigned to the Baltic air policing mission," said NATO spokesperson Carmen Romero, reported DPA news agency.

NATO member states have increased the number of aircraft patrolling the Baltic area following escalating tensions between Russia and the West over the conflict in Ukraine.

"This is still double the number we had before the start of the Russia-Ukraine crisis," Romero said.

"Prior to the crisis, the mission normally had four aircraft for each rotation, all based at Siauliai air base in Lithuania," Romero noted.

'Avoided violations'

Meanwhile, Lithuanian Defense Minister Jouzas Olekas said the move would not affect Baltic security in a bid to downplay the cutback.

"Recently there were no airspace violations. Russian aircraft were escorted many times, but we avoided violations," Olekas told AFP news agency.

"Taking that into account, the decision was made based on a rational use of resources," Olekas said.


Increased NATO presence on Russia's border has been criticized by the Kremlin, with the Russian Foreign Ministry describing July's war games in Ukraine as "provocative."

In June, NATO's Central and Eastern Europe Commander Hans-Lothar Domröse told "Die Welt" newspaper that NATO needed to provide more arms to Baltic states.

"We need to furnish our allies with modern and effective weapons like helicopters, howitzers, tanks, anti-aircraft rocket systems and heavy machines and train them to use the equipment," Domröse said.

According to NATO, jets were scrambled 524 times in 2014, of which 442 times were in response to Russian air activity.

ls/jil (AFP, dpa)