VILNIUS - NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, visiting the Baltic countries, arrived at Zokniai Air Base near the northern Lithuanian town of Siauliai on Oct. 9. Now the base hosts a German detachment of fighter planes, provided for the NATO air policing mission in the Baltic states. He met with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite there. Rasmussen said that the Baltics should not be afraid of Russia.
In his speech in the Zokniai base, Rasmussen, standing near one of the Eurofighters of the German Air Force, aslo spoke about recent Russian war-exercises near borders of the Baltics. "We have closely followed the Russian exercises. I understand that these exercises were a matter of concern," Rasmussen said.
He emphasized that Article 5 of the NATO Treaty remains the cornerstone of the alliance. The article says that an attack on any one NATO member state shall be considered to be an attack on all NATO member states. Rasmussen accented solidarity of the NATO members. "The air policing mission is just an example of it," he said.
"We have been assured that NATO is still interested in investing in defense of the Baltic region. The NATO air policing mission has been prolonged until 2014. We talked about air policing after this date as well. We discussed how to defend the Baltic region in a modern way," Grybauskaite said.
Later, Rasmussen went to Vilnius where he held bilateral talks with Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius and Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas. Rasmussen also delivered a speech at Vilnius University, where he made his position crystal clear - NATO and Russia should be partners because they share similar security interests, and threats for each are the same.