NATO defence ministers on Thursday agreed on founding international military staffs in the Baltic states, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, Lithuania's Defence Minister Juozas Olekas said.
"Yes, the defence ministers of NATO agreed unanimously that units of integration of NATO forces – staffs – will be established in all six countries. We, all of the countries, declared readiness to host them, our Allies said that they were ready to send their officers, and the staffs should be operational in roughly the middle of this year," Olekas told BNS in a telephone interview from Brussels after the meeting.
In his words, the Lithuanian military staff will be based in Vilnius, which is already preparing premises for the purpose.
"We are awaiting arrival of our Allies, they should see and finalize their needs. We have purchased additional machinery and equipment necessary for the staff," the defence minister said.
Under the agreement, half of the officers will represent Lithuania and the other half delegated by Allies. In Olekas' words, the exact number of the officers working in the Lithuanian staff will be finalized after it start operations.
The minister said the military staffs will coordinate Lithuanian and international efforts in joint trainings and joint preparations, furthermore, "will serve as an additional measure of deterring a potential enemy".
"I believe this is a very significant achievement in terms of our security," Olekas said.
During the Brussels meeting, the ministers also gave a green light to establishment of Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF).
In an effort to deter Russia, NATO last year stepped up the Baltic air policing mission and patrol in the Baltic Sea, while the United States sent a company of troops to each of the three Baltic states and Poland.