Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite believes NATO's recent decision to halve its Baltic air-policing mission as of September 2015, has been made after the organisation considered its other security bolstering elements in the Baltic region. She added she feels the downsizing is “not that significant.”
"I would like to pay attention to the fact that eight fighter jets will remain in the Baltic States. That's twice as many as we had before the Ukrainian crisis,” said Grybauskaite. “So, we retain the double air policing mission.
“Poland will handle things on its own, so that downsizing is not that significant.”
According to Grybauskaite, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia still enjoy NATO allies' major attention.
She believes the support is reflected by NATO’s decision to establish a headquarters in the region, plus its decision to deploy U.S. heavy weaponry in the Baltic States of autumn 2015.
The president added that the scope and intensity of NATO military exercises across the region is "unprecedented."
"We need to look into the security situation on the whole, and I think there's no need for us to react to the downsizing of the air policing mission that much,” she continued. “These are decisions that are made by taking into account all security bolstering elements in the region.”
On Tuesday August 4, NATO military spokesperson confirmed the organisation will halve its air policing mission in the Baltic states from 16 to eight fighter jets. One contingent of aircraft, instead of two, will remain at the NATO airbase in Siaulai, Lithuania.
Since Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joined NATO in 2004, the air-policing mission was usually performed by four jets stationed in Lithuania.
After the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014, NATO allies sent additional jets to the three countries.