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Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda says the NATO summit in Madrid will give a good push to the Baltic countries' negotiations on reinforced air defense.
Gitanas Nausėda
Gitanas Nausėda
© DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

"The transition from air policing to the air defense status is extremely important. So far, there's not been much progress, but I hope the NATO summit will first of all give a good start and a green light for this work," Nauseda told reporters on the eve of the summit on Tuesday.

"I expect further cooperation with our partners in this direction," he added.

Fighter jets deployed in the Baltic states as part of NATO's air policing mission currently escort Russian military aircraft flying over the Baltic Sea and have been also patrolling along the Baltics' airspace with Russia and Belarus since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Lithuanian and other Baltic officials say the shift from air policing to air defense would allow these fighters to, for example, shoot down enemy planes in the event of a potential conflict.

As part of such a mission, they said, the allies would need to deploy more ground-based air defense systems in the region.

On Wednesday, NATO leaders are expected to approve commitments to transform the existing multinational battalions currently deployed in the Baltic states into a brigade.

Lithuania and other Baltic and Central European countries are also pushing for Russia to be identified as a threat in NATO's new strategic concept that has remained unchanged for the past 12 years.

The Alliance's international battalions were deployed in Lithuania, as well as in the other Baltic countries and Poland, in 2017 in response to the increased threat from the Kremlin following its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea. The Baltic states are now seeking the presence of larger forces because of the threat from Russia after its attack on neighboring Ukraine.

In Lithuania, Germany is leading such a unit, and a few weeks ago it already announced its intention to increase it to brigade size. Lithuanian officials say part of such a brigade will be deployed in Lithuania for the time being and the remaining part will be stationed in Germany.

BNS
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