Lithuania expects breakthrough in talks on Baltic air defense
2017 m. november 22 d. 13:43
Lithuania expects to achieve by mid-2018 a breakthrough in NATO talks on the Baltic Sea region's air defense principles, Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis said on Wednesday.
The minister says that details on this issue are currently being worked out at the technical level, but he expects a breakthrough at the political level as well.
"First of all, we want air defence to be included into forward presence defence plans, into working plans, and want it to be ensured through NATO Command Structure's reform," he said at a news conference on Wednesday.
Air defence is one of the weakest links in the Baltic countries' defence. Amid growing concern over the threat posed by Russia in recent years, however, Lithuania has signed contracts on the purchase of short-range anti-aircraft defence systems.
Also, Lithuania signed in late October a contract to acquire mid-range Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile Systems (NASAMS).
Defence officials are also considering the possibility of the country's airspace being covered by Patriot long-range anti-missile systems that neighbouring Poland plans to buy from Americans.
"No doubt, the Patriot missiles to be acquired by Poland will be an integral part of NATO's air defence," Lithuania's Chief of Defence, Lieutenant General Jonas Vytautas Žukas said at the same news conference on Wednesday.
The defence minister said that the probability of a permanent deployment of Allied air defence systems to the region is low at the moment because there is a shortage of such weaponry across the Alliance.
In an effort to beef up air defence, officials are also consider giving a broader mandate to fighter-jets conducting NATO's Baltic air-policing mission.
Lithuania's defence budget for 2018 is planned at 873 million euros, meeting NATO's 2 percent of GDP defence spending target for the first time.