During a visit at the Air Force Aviation Base in Šiauliai, which currently accommodates the Portuguese airmen serving in the mission, the minister said on Wednesday that the situation is “very different” from the first time Portugal served in the mission in 2007. He said Portuguese jets have escorted Russian airplanes flying close to the Baltic air-space 15 times over the past two months.
“We participate, because we are a part of the Alliance, we have commitments, concerning the solidarity and to honor our commitments, we participate in that mission. Especially because in 2007 we accepted to be part of the mission of air-policing in the Baltics. We are going to do this year, we are also thinking to do this in the next year or in 2016,” the Portuguese minister told BNS.
“The new foreign atmosphere is very different to that it was in 2007, the conditions that we do our mission today are very different,” he said.
During the visit in Lithuania on Wednesday, Aguiar-Branco and Portugal’s Chief of Defence Artur Neves Pina Monteiro also met with Lithuania’s Defence Minister Juozas Olekas and Chief of Defence Jonas Vytautas Žukas.
Portugal first served in the NATO air-policing mission in 2007, currently it is patrolling the Baltic skies with its six fighter-jets F-16 assisted by four Canadian fighter-jets F-18.