NATO chief reassures Baltics of security

Other News Materials 12 September 2008 17:36 (UTC +04:00)

NATO's top official reassured Baltic nations of their security as members of the alliance Friday in the wake of Russia's war with Georgia, reported dpa.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - all former Soviet satellites - have been concerned for their security after watching Russian tanks roll into Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia.

"Nobody should doubt that this alliance ... given when necessary will do what is necessary," NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told journalists in the Latvian capital Riga after talks with Latvian President Valdis Zatlers and the three Baltic foreign ministers.

Scheffer reiterated that the 26-nation military alliance did not consider Russia a threat to its members, including the Baltics.

"We have our fundamental differences with the Russian Federation ... but we do not consider Russia a threat. But having said that, NATO has developed a very flexible defence planning system, so nobody should have any doubts if there's a need to adapt it, NATO can always do it," he said.

The military preparedness of the Baltic countries moved into the spotlight after US Ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker told the Financial Times earlier in September that NATO needed to be prepared to defend the Baltics.

Since the three nations have minimal military capabilities, NATO warplanes have patrolled Baltic airspace since the former Soviet republics joined the military alliance in 2004.

The United States is slated to take over the patrols in October from Germany in a regular rotation among NATO members.

High-ranking military officials from the three Baltic states and the US will meet in Riga next week in another move to reassure the Baltics that NATO is ready to help in case of a military attack.

The meeting, a prelude to a two-day NATO defence ministers' meeting in London starting Thursday, was planned before the Russian- Georgian conflict erupted.