Defense Ministers Andrus Oovel of Estonia, Talavs Jundzis of Latvia, and Ceslovas Stankevicius of Lithuania signed yesterday in Tallinn a package of intergovernmental agreements on the status and operation of the joint Baltic Battalion. Under the agreements, BaltBat is being placed under the political authority of the Defense Ministers and under the operational command of the armed forces’ commanders of the three countries. The ministers and the commanders are to act as two joint committees and make decisions based on the consensus principle. Decisions regarding BaltBat’s missions come under the ministers’ purview, while decisions on training are up to the armed forces’ commanders. The posts of BaltBat commander, deputy commander, and chief of staff will rotate annually among the three countries. The battalion must be ready to perform peacekeeping missions by January 1, 1998. (BNS, December 10)
Yesterday’s agreements confer on BaltBat a legal status, which had until now been lacking despite Baltbat’s progress at the operational level. The decision to create a joint battalion was originally taken in 1994. National platoons and companies earmarked for BaltBat began exercising in 1995. Elements of BaltBat joined peacekeeping operations in Bosnia under NATO command in 1996. This week, the battalion is conducting the second and final stage of the most comprehensive exercise in its history. Ten NATO and Nordic countries have assisted in the battalion’s development. On December 8-9, special committees of Western and Baltic officers conferred on three additional projects of regional defense. (See Monitor, December 10)
Opposition Rallies in Minsk on Human Rights Day.