Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 145

The commanders of the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian armies, Lt. Generals Alexander Einseln, Juris Eihmanis, and Jonas Andriskevicius, conferred November 28 and 29 in Jurmala (Latvia) on the concept of a Baltic defense union and other aspects of military cooperation among their countries. The commanders approved measures on the development of the integrated Baltic Battalion (BaltBat), to be commanded by an officer from each country in rotating three-year terms; and resolved to contribute one platoon from each Baltic country to the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia. The talks moreover covered joint staff and field exercises planned for 1996, joint officer training programs, common participation in activities under NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, and military information sharing. The commanders also discussed plans for creating a joint military staff, common systems for airspace and maritime space surveillance, and a joint Baltic naval squadron.

Estonia’s Einseln, who took credit for proposing the defense union, defined its essence as meaning that "should one of us be attacked, this will mean an attack against us all." The army commanders deferred to political authority in saying that they will support the defense union if signed by the governments. Latvian president Guntis Ulmanis, who received the generals in Riga, announced his support the same day. (13)

The Baltic army commanders’ meetings take place three times a year, with the venue rotating among the three countries, under a cooperation plan signed by their defense ministers in February 1995. The Baltic states regard common security arrangements as a spur toward cooperation with NATO and eventual admission to the alliance. But NATO’s perceived hesitation in admitting new members, as disappointingly evidenced by US defense secretary William Perry on his recent Baltic visit, may in turn accelerate efforts toward security cooperation among the three Baltic countries.

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