NATO ACTIVATES SIX COMMAND UNITS IN EASTERN AND CENTRAL EUROPE

http://www.defensenews.com on September 1, 2015, reported that NATO activated command units in six central and eastern European members to boost defense amid regional tensions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, Lithuania’s defence ministry said. Excerpts below:

“NATO today officially activated NATO force integration units in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania,” ministry spokeswoman Asta Galdikaite told AFP.

The Baltic nation’s foreign minister Linas Linkevicius said the move was “a clear sign that NATO takes it’s commitments very seriously.”

“It is a clear message both to allies and, of course, opponents who have recently increased the tensions,” the minister told AFP, without directly naming Russia.

The six multinational units with around 40 officers each were set up to facilitate the deployment of the newly forged NATO rapid reaction force and coordinate military drills.

It is the latest NATO move to boost defenses in the eastern flank since Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine last year.

NATO has increased the number of military exercises, deployed planes and ships while the US pledged to keep heavy weapons in the region that lay behind the Iron Curtain a quarter of a century ago.

Latvia confirmed that two US Army Predator surveillance drones and 70 airmen had deployed to its Lielvarde Air Base for a training mission.

“They are here… they will be staying for two weeks for training purposes — it is not a permanent deployment,” Latvian Defence Ministry spokeswoman Anete Gneze told AFP.

Intelligence training will involve two intelligence officers from Poland and each of the Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.

The moves come less than two weeks after NATO opened a new Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence in the Latvian capital, Riga.

The three Baltic states and Poland have also repeatedly called for a permanent NATO presence to deter Russia…

Linkevicius insisted Russian military exercises have recently been much larger than NATO drills.

“We’ve repeatedly said our steps are not directed against anybody. We are only meeting the commitments to secure NATO countries and citizens,” he said.

Comment: This is good news for Denmark, Sweden and Finland. The growing number of Russian provocations around the Baltic Sea is influencing public opinion in the two nonaligned countries. In both Finland and Sweden there are growing numbers of voters who support NATO membership. In Sweden all four center-right parties now support NATO membership. The resistance of social democrats, former communists and the greens to membership is becoming more and more outdated in the New Cold War in northern Europe.

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