O espaço aéreo de três ex-repúblicas soviéticas do báltico passou a ser controlado pela NATO, mas a medida não foi bem recebida em Moscovo, já que os aviões da aliança atlântica terão que efectuar voos muito perto das fronteiras russas. A situação levou já a que algumas personalidades russas defendessem medidas de força, caso os aparelhos da NATO não respeitem as fronteiras da Rússia. A partir desta segunda-feira, a NATO passa a controlar o espaço aéreo da Estónia, Letónia e Lituânia, três ex-repúblicas soviéticas.Os aviões da aliança atlântica vão estar baseados em aeródromos militares da Lituânia. Um general russo, que já comandou a Força Aérea da Rússia, entende que Moscovo não deverá fazer «cerimónia» com a aviação da NATO, caso o espaço aéreo russo venha a ser violado.A Duma russa prepara-se também para analisar a situação e um dirigente da comissão parlamentar para a segurança afirma mesmo que a NATO está a dar passos hostis em direcção à Rússia e que se as coisas se mantiverem, Moscovo terá que accionar medidas de resposta, para manter o equilíbrio de forças na Europa.
As soon as next week, Belgian F-16s are most likely due to set course to the three Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) that are becoming full NATO members next Monday. The ultimate decision will be taken on Monday by Belgian Defence Secretary A. Flahaut.The Baltic countries don't have dedicated air defences and posed a request to the alliance to provide air cover over their territories. The plan calls for a permanent NATO detachment based in Lithuania, with reserve fields located in the other two countries. The detachment will consist out of 4 F-16s and associated personel. All four EPAF countries will provide assets, with Belgium, The Netherlands and Denmark providing F-16s and Norway providing a mobile air-traffic control center. The F-16 units will rotate on a 3-month basis. After some negotiations within NATO it was decided that Belgium would step in for the first 3-month period, starting as soon as March 31st. Further details on this deployment will probably be made by NATO and the Belgian Defence department in the course of next week. Update: Today, right after Defence Secretary Flahaut had given his permission for the go-ahead of this mission, four F-16s departed from Kleine-Brogel AB. One pair at 14:30 pm and the other pair at 15:30 pm. These F-16s of 349 squadron will start their air patrols on April 1st from Siauliai AB, situated in the north of Lithuania. After 6 weeks a rotation will take place and 349 squadron will return to Kleine-Brogel in favor for 350 squadron. The assignment will end on June 30th and either Denmark or The Netherlands will take over from the Belgian Air Component at that time.
NATO F-16 fighters will arrive today at the Lithuanian Siauliai military air base. On March 27th, a C-130 Hercules transporter delivered supporting personnel and essential facilities to Siauliai. NATO will protect the airspace over Lithuania beginning March 29th, Lithuanian authorities reported. NATO is also considering the possibility to locate a support airbase near Tallinn, the capital of Capital of Estonia. But all of this, together with the inclusion, of former communist states in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is raising concerns in Moscow. "NATO's steps have had an unfriendly character towards Russia," The Associated Press quoted Kosachyov as saying in response to the planned basing of four NATO F-16 fighter jets in Lithuania.