Don't panic

  • 2008-09-18
  • By Monika Hanley

NOT COMING SOON: Russian tanks are on the move in Georgia, might the same thing happen to the Baltics? NATO's secretary-general said there would be no "special solidarity," but NATO was flexible enough to deal with any threat if the worst happened.

RIGA - NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer assured Baltic leaders during a visit to Riga on Sept. 12 that the Baltic states' security was guaranteed, without prescribing any concrete measures to beef up defenses.

"The Baltic states should be perfectly calm," the NATO chief told the press. He emphasized that the region was not alone: "I do not want to hear there is a Baltic air space, because it is NATO air space," he said.
Asked if it would be necessary to start discussing a defense plan for the Baltic states, de Hoop Scheffer said that the alliance did not need a new system of security planning. The NATO head also said that the existing system was efficient and could be adjusted to any situation if need be.

The NATO head made a point to mention, however, that the organization does not see Russia as a threat.
"We have our fundamental differences with the Russian Federation. We had them already before they were embarking on disproportionate force in Georgia, and did their bad things in Georgia, but we do not consider Russia a threat," he said.

Asked about the patrolling of the Baltic air space, de Hoop Scheffer said NATO has always paid much attention to this issue and will continue to do so in the future.
After meeting with the NATO secretary general, Latvian president Valdis Zatlers said that throughout the 60 years of its existence, NATO has shown itself as an efficient organization. "Latvia is confident that NATO will guarantee security," the president said.

President Zatlers also went on to relate a story that sheds light on how uninformed the local community can be regarding security and defense. "They asked me whether there will be NATO bases in Latvia. And I asked them, do you know how far away is the closest NATO base? She did not know. And so I said it is 12 kilometers from here. She was surprised."

The president firmly stated the position shared with NATO to assure citizens that Latvia and the Baltics are safe and there is no need for alarm. "NATO is here, and Latvian bases are NATO bases. So we have a common area to defend 's we are in a collective defense system," he said.
Scheffer, for his part, praised Latvia's contribution to NATO missions.

He also praised the role of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country holds the EU presidency, in settling the Georgian-Russian conflict. "I hope that the EU will be able to create a situation that will be acceptable to all sides " ... NATO too is getting actively involved, and it will be demonstrated … when ambassadors of the alliance's member states go to Georgia," the NATO secretary general said.