Latviski English По-русски
Wednesday 21.03.2018 | Name days: Una, Unigunde, Dzelme, Benedikts

Baltics want faster US decisions on the region’s air defence

(No Ratings Yet)

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) arrives to pose for a photo with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius (C) and Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser in 2017

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

Ahead of the meeting of three Baltic presidents with U.S. President Donald Trump on April 3, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have called on the key ally to make «faster decisions» on the region’s air defence.

The request follows Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that Russia is «speedily» developing a series of nuclear weapon systems, including a new supersonic cruise missile capable of overcoming NATO defence systems.

In its quite belligerent state of the nation speech delivered to federal legislators in early March, Putin said the weapons are both new and unique to Russia.

In early February, Russia announced it had deployed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in the exclave of Kaliningrad, tucked in between Poland and Lithuania, and intends to keep them there permanently.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė called the instalment a «threat» not just to Lithuania, but also to a half of European countries.

Until recently, Russia used to bring the missile complex to the region for military drills only, however, now the situation is different – it is a permanent stationing with all the necessary infrastructure in place, Baltic defence strategists note.

Lithuania’s intelligence says that a placement of Iskander systems in Kaliningrad is potentially more dangerous for Lithuania due to its capacity to hinder NATO actions in the region. The Lithuanian intelligence agencies believe however that the missile complex is not needed for targets in Lithuania’s territory, as, theoretically, they could be taken down by the existing other Russian military capacities.

Iskander missiles in neighbourhood were deployed as Lithuania marked the first year anniversary of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group in the country.

Against the backdrop, the three Baltic states feel increasingly vulnerable as only very limited elements of air defence are said to be stationed in the region.

Not surprisingly, the Baltic Foreign ministers addressed the issue in their meeting with the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this Monday, March 5.

«Air defence is one of the most important aspects of the planning of the defence system of the Baltic states. It is a challenge for all of NATO, which can only be overcome by uniting the efforts of the US and European nations. To create efficient air defence, we need to make immediate decisions and plan both national and NATO investments as soon as possible,» Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius said on Tuesday, March 6, at the opening of a Washington conference on air defence of the Baltic region organized by Lithuania and the US.

After Russia annexed Ukraine’s region of Crimea in 2014, the US immediately sent several hundreds of troops to each Baltic country.

«We underlined that we are very grateful for what is happening, but we would like to see a permanent presence — either in the form of training or visits or exercises,» the Lithuanian minister said.

Linkevičius also said that he had presented a Lithuania-proposed plan for EU financial aid for Ukraine, dubbed as the «Marshall plan» to Tillerson.

The need for coordinating US and EU sanctions on Russia was also discussed during the meeting, he said.

Air defence is widely believed to be of the weak spots of the Baltic states in the military sense. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia currently only have short-range missile defence systems, which can reach targets within 3-5 km. The countries are buying Norwegian missiles that will cover distances of a few dozen km and take down targets at an altitude of 15 km.

In order to ensure protection of the airspace, the Baltic states would need a shield of long-range defence systems, such as Patriot, in the third phase. Last summer, the United States stationed the missiles in Lithuania for the first time for training. Defence officials are considering a possibility of covering Lithuania’s airspace with the Patriot systems to be purchased by Poland.

In late February, the United States military presented the Patriot long-range air defence missile system in the territory of the Logistics Command of the Estonian defence forces in Tallinn.

The primary aim of bringing the missile system to Estonia was to rehearse cooperation with the Estonian Air Force.

The unit of the Patriot system that arrived in Estonia belonged to the 10th Army Air and Missile Defence Command and is part of the air and missile defence system of US Army Europe.

The mobile surface-to-air missile system MIM 104 Patriot is among the most advanced such systems in the world. It has a range of up to 160 kilometres depending on the type of missile and a maximum flight altitude of 25 kilometres.

Latvia has also raised multiple times the issue of necessity of an anti-missile air defence system in the region.

In a meeting with Finnish Defence minister Jussi Niinistro in mid-February, Latvian Defence Minister Raimonds Bergmanis underlined the necessity to strengthen Latvian-Finnish defence cooperation. Last year, Finland’s armed forces started teaching Latvian soldiers to use Stinger air-defence systems.

As reported, the Latvian and Danish defence ministries last year signed an agreement under which Latvia will purchase Stingers from the Danish armed forces. Finland is one of Latvia’s allies that are already using these air-defence missile systems and has expressed readiness to share its experience with the Latvian armed forces.

Although certain missile defence elements are installed in the Baltics now, however, they are not able to withstand the risks stemming from the Iskander system deployment in Kaliningrad.

«The Redzikowo AEGIS Ashore ballistic missile defence site in Poland should be operational this year and the US nuclear posture and plans to deal with Russia’s offensive capabilities are clear signals that deterrence is on top of the list for the priorities by the United States,» Vaidas Saldžiūnas, a renown Lithuanian defence analyst, told BNN recently.

He, however, admitted that the current Baltic defence capacities and those by the NATO do not allow to «100 per cent» defend infrastructure of the fixed Baltic sites, like the airports, ammunition depos, military bases and objects of the kind.

Asked whether the US and the NATO should have by now stationed an anti-ballistic missile system in the Baltics, Saldžiūnas reasoned that even with such a system on the ground, its ability to take down a launched Iskander missile could be «a difficult task.»

«More productive is to threaten Iskanders, so they are not launched. This is in the first place,» the expert emphasised.

It is clear, however, that in the Baltic presidents’ meeting with the US President next month and in the next NATO Summit to be held on July 11-12, 2018, in Brussels, Belgium, the issue of the Baltics’ air defence will be talked up to the core.

«The key topics (of the meeting with President Donald Trump) will be security and (…) the upcoming NATO summit,» an advisor to President Grybauskaitė said this week.

Ref: 020/

Leave a reply

Prime minister doubts Anti-Money Laundering Service head’s competence

«The work performed by the service requires drastic changes. Whether or not it can be done by its current head [Viesturs Burkāns], I am not sure,» said Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis in an interview to LNT, commenting on the work performed by Latvian Anti-Money Laundering Service.

Vilnius chosen for office of game developer Lockwood Publishing from UK

UK's mobile game developer Lockwood Publishing has unveiled plans to open its first overseas office in Vilnius, pointing to the industry's talent in Lithuania and the wider region.

Association: municipalities should organize their work on their own

On 6 March, Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments reviewed the letter sent to Riga City Council by Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry, in which the institution ordered the municipality to review their internal order and lift restrictions on the length of debates and the number of questions deputies are allowed to ask.

Canada moves to increase gun control

Canada's federal federal government has proposed new gun control measures, but they could reduce support to the ruling Liberal Party in rural areas, where guns are widely owned and used.

Minister: EU should work on rules to make sure social networks cannot be manipulated

«European Union needs to react to the Facebook data scandal and develop strict regulations to make sure social networks cannot be used to manipulate people. Appropriate regulations are needed in the matter regarding political campaigns performed on social networks, which is gradually becoming a common occurrence nowadays,» says Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs.

Profits of Latvian State Roads increased by 8.6% last year

Turnover of Latvian State Roads reached EUR 14.529 million last year, which is 10.3% more when compared to 2016. The company’s profits increased by 8.6% - to EUR 59,485, according to the published interim financial report.

Slovak President casts doubt over impartiality of proposed government

In a continuation of the political crisis in Slovakia, Slovak President Andrej Kiska has not accepted a the newly proposed government deeming it possibly unable to supervise an impartial investigation of the two murders that have shaken the Eastern European nation.

France's ex-leader Sarkozy in custody over links with Libya

French ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy has been taken in custody on March 20 and was held in custody on Tuesday and interrogated amid an investigation into whether late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi added funds to his 2007 election campaign.

KVV Liepājas metalurgs’ steelworks bought out by Austrian Smart Stahl

The auction for the sale of the insolvent KVV Liepājas metalurgs rolling mill equipment concluded with the victory of Austrian Smart Stahl GmbH, as confirmed by insolvency administrator Guntars Koris.

Entomologist: at least 5% of ticks in Latvia are infected with encephalitis

There have been cases of tick activity during the winter period in Latvia this year. As air temperature increases, ticks become active and start popping up. This means residents should seriously consider vaccination to avoid getting encephalitis from tick bites, entomologists say.

Rail Baltica station’s construction at Riga airport will cost EUR 4.5 million

Creation of a separate railway station and related infrastructure at Riga International Airport as part of Rail Baltica project will cost EUR 4.5 million, says the project’s manager in Latvia and board member of European Railway Lines company Andris Linužs.

Norwegian minister steps down to keep minority government in power

In a move to avoid the collapse of the Norwegian minority government, its Justice Minister Sylvi Listhaug resigned amid a political storm she had caused by blaming an opposition party of not being harsh enough toward terrorism suspects.

Political party calls for immediate action to resolve «over-salted Riga» problem

Member of For Latvia’s Development political party’s Riga City Council faction Ansis Ansbergs urges the administration to find a quick solution to the excessive use of salt during the winter season because it has a negative impact on both human and animal health, as well as the state of buildings, cars and plant life in the capital.

MEP: fair competition should be secured for all European farmers

Sixteen members of the European Parliament from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland submitted a joint proposal on Monday, 19 March, for a resolution regarding the future of the Common Agricultural Policy with a request to equalize the level of direct payments across all of Europe starting from 2021.

Estonia prison sentence upheld to Syrian man for causing burns to wife

In the Estonian criminal case, where a Syrian man has been convicted to 10 years in prison over causing corporal damage to his wife by setting her on fire, Estonian Supreme Court has rejected his appeal.

Olainfarm’s sales volume increased by 16% over the course of the year

Provisional consolidated data from Olainfarm for February 2018 shows that product sales volumes have reached EUR 10.69 million, which is 33% more when compared with the same period of 2017.

Minister: it is not impossible for banks to reduce number of risky clients to 5%

It is not impossible for Latvian banks to reduce the number of risky clients to 5%, says Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola.

Syrian Afrin left by 220 000 civilians, Turkish-supported rebels loot town

After seizing the northern Syrian town of Afrin from Kurdish militia, Syrian rebels supported by Turkey have been looting properties, journalists have reported. The town has been left by estimated 220 000 civilians.

Ministry orders Riga City Council to lift restrictions on questions

Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry has asked Riga City Council to act and fix violations of democratic principles in the newly approved rules for deputies.

Observers of Russia election see lack of genuine choice, numerous irregularities

Official results of the Russian presidential election showed that Vladimir Putin received in a competition of eight candidates over 76% of votes and European observers have found the election has been conducted efficiently, but that there has been a lack of choice.

Olainfarm: tax law does not allow applying for tax discount in investment projects

Rushed changes to the Corporate Income Tax Law, approved as part of the expansive tax reform, do not allow businesses with prior permission from the government to apply for CIT discounts in investment projects to receive said discounts if their historic profits are not divided into dividends.

EU agrees to UK's transition period before Brexit

In a breakthrough in the Brexit talks, the UK gave its consent on Monday to an agreement with the European Union that a tangible border would not be established between British-ruled Northern Ireland and Ireland to have the bloc agree to retain most EU advantages for close to two years leaving the union.

Latvia experiences one of the most rapid export rises among EU member states in January

In January 2017, Latvia experienced one of the most rapid export increases among EU member states when compared to the same month of the previous year, according to data published by Eurostat on Monday, 19 March.

Russian citizens living in Latvia provided more support to Putin than citizens in Russia

During the presidential elections in Russia last week, support provided to President Vladimir Putin by Russian citizens living in Latvia turned out considerably larger than it was in Russia.

Every third illegally downloaded software programme – infected with a virus

Data compiled by International Data Corporation shows: every third illegally downloaded software programme is infected with malicious software. Nevertheless, 69% of consumers and 33% of businesses in Europe procure computers with software from unsafe sources.