After conferring in Tallinn January 22 and 23, the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian defense ministers approved a plan for military cooperation among their countries in 1996. However, the ministers played down recent proposals to create a military alliance or military union among the three Baltic states. Their plan for military cooperation envisages military staff conferences every three months, linking the three countries’ airspace surveillance systems, joint mine-planting and mine-sweeping practice in the Baltic Sea, joint troop exercises, harmonization of equipment and logistics, development of a joint Baltic battalion, joint participation with NATO forces in the peacekeeping operation in Bosnia, and closer ties among the Baltic countries’ paramilitary organizations. The ministers issued a joint statement confirming their nations’ goal of meeting NATO military standards and joining the alliance.
Estonian president Lennart Meri received the three defense ministers. Meri pledged in a statement that his country would defend itself militarily in a crisis rather than submit to occupation as it did in 1940. By resisting aggression, Meri said Estonia would defend not only itself but the entire Baltic Sea basin. Meri described his statement as "a mirror reflection of the foreign policy priorities set by Russia’s new Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov." In related news, the Estonian parliament yesterday approved president Lennart Meri’s nomination of Colonel Johannes Kert, commander of the national paramilitary defense league Kaitseliit, as commander of Estonia’s armed forces. (13)
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