The declaration – signed in Brussels by the US, Canada, Germany, the UK, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland – confirms the readiness of the four NATO combat groups that are stationed in Poland and the Baltic States.
“Today, we declare that the four highly capable, flexible and interoperable multinational battlegroups are ready and able to deter and, if necessary, immediately respond to any aggression in concert with national forces underpinned by a viable reinforcement strategy,” the declaration read.
The defence ministers said they have reviewed the progress of the declaration signed at the Warsaw NATO summit in 2016 to implement an "enhanced forward presence" in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.
“As a means to prevent conflict and war, credible deterrence and defence is essential,” the declaration read.
“At the same time, as part of the Alliance's overall approach to providing security for NATO populations and territory, deterrence has to be complemented by meaningful dialogue and engagement with Russia, to seek reciprocal transparency and risk reduction. Those efforts will not come at the expense of ensuring NATO's credible deterrence and defence.”
Ahead of Thursday’s meeting of defence ministers in Brussels, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that 2017 will see a 4.3 percent increase in defence spending, marking “the third consecutive year of accelerating defence spending increases across European Allies and Canada”.
Referring to tensions with Russian in the Baltic region, specifically a recent incident where a NATO jet “buzzed” a plane carrying a Russian minister, Stoltenberg said that the Alliance is “transparent” when it comes to exercises.
He called on Russia to act in a similar transparent way.
“We are also focused on the issue of air safety,” Stoltenberg said. “And first I would like to underline that the vast majority of the intercepts in the Baltic Sea region, or over the Baltic Sea, is or are done in a professional and safe manner on both sides.” (rg/pk)