Even in times of the worldwide Corona crisis, NATO continues to conduct its missions and operations to preserve and generate peace e.g. the Resolute Support (RS) Mission in Afghanistan, the KFOR Mission in Kosovo and the Baltic Air Policing mission over the Baltic states. With regard to the latter, Spain, France and the United Kingdom will take up NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission starting in May, guarding the skies over the Baltic region for the next four months. The three NATO Allies are replacing air force detachments from Belgium and Poland which have protected the airspace of NATO’s three Baltic Allies - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - since January. And wherever possible, NATO tries to combine operational necessities with the fight against the pandemic. An example of this would be a Spanish transport plane, deploying personnel and material of the Spanish Baltic Air Policing contingent to Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, also airlifted medical supplies donated by the Lithuanian government to Spain to help the country fight the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the perfect example of allied solidarity being no one-way street.
Also on the level of the respective theatres, direct cooperation became common when, this week, the Resolute Support mission helped to provide critical medical supplies to Afghan Security Forces. Further, in the same timeframe, the KFOR mission donated personal protection equipment to local hospitals in Kosovo.
NATO will however not sacrifice deterrence in light of the COVID-19 outbreak and continues to execute daily operations. A good example of this is the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission, which aims to preserve the security of allied airspace. Interceptors of the Alliance, based in Estonia and Lithuania, scrambled 5 times this week to identify aircraft approaching the Baltic airspace without observing the international rules of safe aviation.
In the maritime domain, the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG 1) started Exercise Open Spirit this week in the Baltic Sea, performing Historical Ordnance Disposal. For this exercise, the SNMCMG 1, consisting of vessels from Norway, The Netherlands and Germany under the command of a Norwegian naval officer, will cooperate with the Baltic Naval Squadron (BALTRON), a tri-national maritime task force from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and with the German Navy. Their common task in this operation is to search and destroy mines and other explosives still left over from the World Wars that continue to threaten safe navigation in the Baltic Sea.
Any potential adversaries should know that NATO forces remain ready and steadfast in their commitment to protect all Allies. Our shared values remain at our core, even in times of global pandemic.
Spanish F-18 at Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania