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There appears to be some confusion in the media about how long the North Atlantic Council (NAC), NATO's highest decision-making body, extended Baltic air policing on Feb. 8. Some reports speak of an extension to 2014, others to 2018 and some even indefinitely. The latter appears to be the case, as a NATO spokesperson told Aviation Week the NAC decided "continuous presence" with "no end date fixed."Luftwaffe photoSince the three Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—became alliance members at the end of March 2004, aircraft from NATO nations have been taking turns policing their airspace every three or four months. The Luftwaffe is currently performing the task with F-4F Phantom IIs.NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen placed the extension in the context of his "smart defense" initiative, which seeks to give NATO nations more bang for their bucks in a time of limited defense budgets. George Robertson, the NATO secretary general at the time the Baltic states became new alliance members, already discouraged them from spending all their defense money acquiring fighter aircraft and instead encouraged them to improve other capabilities.
Copyright © 2013, Aviation Week, a division of McGraw Hill Financial.