NATO EXTENDS BALTIC AIR PATROLS

Washington Times on February 8, 2012, published an AP report that NATO has decided to extend an operation to protect the airspace of Baltic members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with fighter jets.

Carmen Romero, NATO‘s deputy spokeswoman, said the decision “shows NATO‘s commitment to air policing in the Baltic States as a long-term and sustainable mission.” NATO did not give an end date for the operation.

None of the three Baltic nations, which joined NATO in 2004, has had fighter planes since they seceded from the Soviet Union in 1991. As a result, larger member nations have taken turns policing their airspace.

Normally, up to four jets are deployed on four-month rotations, along with 50 to 100 ground crew. The air forces of Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey and the United States have participated in the missions.

The patrols are carried out from an air base in Lithuania.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed the extension, saying the kind of cooperation exemplified by the Baltic Air Policing mission sets an example for other collaborative projects within the alliance “as we reconcile our security requirements with budgetary realities.”

All three Baltic nations border Russia, which has never been happy about the eastward shift of NATO, its old Cold War foe. But Moscow has not objected to the air-policing arrangement.

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