The United States will allocate USD125 million to develop military cooperation between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania next year; it will also create, for the first time in history, a separate USD50 million budget line to support the development of Baltic air defence.
According to a statement by the Estonian ministry of defence, the bill also includes a solidarity clause that confirms the United States’ commitment to the Baltic region and assigns the Pentagon to write an analysis of defence assistance.
Air defence is more multi-layered than air policing, consisting of a well-functioning early warning system, surveillance capabilities and anti-aircraft weapon systems, as well as well-qualified personnel capable of conducting anti-air operations that current air policing does not allow, the defence ministry added.
The US president, Donald Trump, signed the US National Defense Authorization Act bill granting aid to the Baltic countries on 20 December.
According to the Estonian minister of defence, Jüri Luik, strengthening the deterrence and defence posture in the Baltic states, including in the area of airspace and especially in the field of air defence, it is important for the whole NATO and for the United States.
“Our ally clearly confirms its commitment to collective defence on Europe´s eastern flank,” Luik said in a statement. “The transition from air policing to air defence requires a common decision from all the allies, but the US position and practical support are of great importance. We greatly appreciate the US support for the development of our region’s defence.”
Cover: An Avenger Air Defense System, carried by a Humvee vehicle. The image is illustrative (Wikimedia Commons).