Dutch PM: regional security situation poor, NATO should continue taking responsibility

Mark Rutte
AP / Scanpix

It is NATO that should continue its commitments to the Alliance’s Eastern members that fear Russian actions in Ukraine, the head of the Dutch government said after meeting with Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė in Rukla on Friday.

“I think what we are doing here is of great of importance. The deteriorated security situation on Europe’s Eastern and also southern flanks shows no sign of improvement, so we have a continued responsibility to fulfill,” Rutte said in a joint news conference with Grybauskaitė.

He said that after Russia annexed Crimea and started supported separatists in Eastern Ukraine, Moscow’s foreign policy had become “more and more aggressive in recent years.”

Nearly 300 passengers, mainly Dutch citizens, were killed when an airliner en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down above Ukraine later that year.

In response to Russia’s actions, NATO stationed an international battalion in each of the Baltic states and Poland earlier this year. The German-led NATO unit currently includes about 250 Dutch troops.

The Dutch prime minister is in Lithuania less than a month before of the Russian-Belarusian military exercise Zapad 2017 is held close to Lithuania’s borders.

“The exercise has a huge impact in scale. It is very big, very huge. (…) Being of this size, it only underlines the need for NATO to be present here and to help our Lithuanian partners,” said Rutte.

Grybauskaitė emphasized that the September exercise was aggressive and aimed against the West, adding that Lithuania would send its officials to observe the training, with an invitation received from Belarus.

To deter Russia, a battalion of US troops should be stationed in the Baltic states during the exercise. Furthermore, US aviators planned to take over the NATO-sanctioned Baltic air-policing mission in Siauliai next month plan to bring eight F-15 fighter-jets instead of the usual four.

The United States should also station a few warships in the Baltic Sea.

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