NATO approve Polish and Baltic States’ defence plan featuring unprecedented forces

NATO and Lithuanian flag DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

NATO member states have finally signed a renewed defence plan for Poland and the Baltic States, which has been awaited for a decade. While its details are classified, the alliance’s secretary-general hinted that the region would have unprecedented forces allocated in it, Marius Zaremba writes in TV3.lt.

The 29 NATO member states had agreed on the plan already last year, but it was blocked by Turkey, which was pursuing its own interests. Political scientists guess that Erdogan changed his mind due to the lure of purchasing American fighters or the fear of being left without friends upon once again falling out with Russia’s Putin.

President Gitanas Nausėda met with Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis and the head of the armed forces Valdemaras Rupšys. They discussed the NATO defence plan for the Baltic States and Poland, which was finally signed after a decade of waiting. However, the regional defence plan signed by the alliance’s 30 members is heavily classified.

Darius Kuliešius, who replaced Vytautas Žukas as advisor after the latter’s departure from the team last week, says that the plan’s information is confidential for understandable strategic concerns.

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“This plan is important in that it reinforces our region’s security, strengthens deterrence and this means that Lithuania and the other Baltic States are not alone in the face of danger,” the president’s advisor Darius Kuliešius says.

Last year, NATO leaders met for a summit in London and the plan was to come into power already then, but the approval process was blocked by Turkey alone. They not only demanded greater NATO support for their defence interests, but also sought that the alliance’s members would recognise Kurdish fighters operating in Northern Syria as terrorists.

What NATO promised Turkey for compromising is not disclosed, but there are murmurs that the USA could have renewed negotiations with Ankara over the purchase of F-35 fighters.

It is also believed that NATO positions in the Black Sea region, where Russia has settled comfortably in recent years, are to be strengthened.

Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis says that NATO member states often have diverging opinions on certain questions, but what is most important is that they always reach agreement on essential matters. He also emphasises that Lithuania will continue to seek for US troops to be constantly present in Lithuania in one form or another.

“NATO has plans and in the future will have the necessary plans for ensuring defence. The Baltic States and Poland are afforded particular attention and unprecedented forces are assigned,” minister Raimundas Karoblis explains.

Lieutenant General Valdemaras Rupšys says that the renewal of defence plans for Poland and the Baltic States was essential. This was greatly affected by Russian aggression against Ukraine and the Crimean annexation.

“Plans are intended for an entire region and conditions have obviously changed since 2010. The security situation has also changed and thus, any plan, be it national or collective defence plans, must always be changed and adapted in accordance to forces and threats,” the head of the armed forces Valdemaras Rupšys states.

Military and armaments expert Darius Antanaitis notes that we should first of all celebrate that NATO retained its unity and collective defence. However, expecting that the regional plan will satisfy all of Lithuania’s needs would be naïve. According to Antanaitis, what is important is not only securing the Suvalkai Corridor, but also obtaining air defence systems and including “military Schengen” clauses in the plan so that in case of aggression, allied forces moving to help would face as few as possible bureaucratic obstacles.

“It is likely that US intelligence capacities will remain. This is essential for us in monitoring happenings in Belarus, Kaliningrad and Russia itself. It is also likely that there will be greater German involvement in Lithuanian defence. This is also displayed by the Lithuanian-German agreement on troop presence in one another’s territories,” armaments expert Darius Antanaitis said.

Europe is concerned by US President Donald Trump’s continuing position on the presence of American troops in the Old Continent. This is because he announced the withdrawal of a part of the troops deployed in Germany. While there are musings that they might be redeployed to Poland, experts believe that if this were to happen, the neighbouring country would see a lesser part of the US troops arriving than that returning to the USA.

That said, political scientist Linas Kojala reassures that such talks are more political, especially with the presidential elections nearing in the US. However, at the institutional level, US involvement in NATO remains strong. Without American contributions, the regional defence plan for the Baltic States would not have been approved. As for the Turks, the expert notes that they might also have backed down with relations worsening with Putin’s Russia.

“The complications in Turkish-Russian relations, without a doubt, once again remind Turkey, if it ever forgot, that it is a NATO state and that its main partners are NATO countries, whose position on Russia is often principled and strict. I think that Ankara had never forgotten this and is now simply calibrating its actions in the understanding that circumstances and the situation in the world are changing,” political scientist Linas Kojala says.

Minister Raimundas Karoblis revealed that France would also contribute more to regional security. Already on Monday, 300 troops from this country are to arrive in Lithuania.

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