NATO’s Baltic Fighter Squeeze

NATO fighters have provided air sovereignty to Baltic member states Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania since their accession to the alliance in 2004, something European defense cuts are rendering increasingly complicated, according to Maj. Gen. Mark Schissler, US Air Forces in Europe’s director of plans, programs and analyses. The point of NATO’s Baltic air policing mission is to prevent the need for an armed retaliation under NATO treaty obligations “by having good security,” Schissler told the Daily Report in a Jan. 10 interview at USAFE headquarters at Ramstein AB, Germany. “It’s working now,” but “some of the key nations [with] some of the best defensive capability are looking at significant reductions,” upwards of a third of forces, he said. Those cuts will eat into “the numeric supply of fighters and fighter squadrons here on the continent,” he explained. “What exists now, and what will exist in two years, five to10 years will probably be significantly different,” said Schissler. Such reductions, he added, will make the air policing mission “harder to do,” albeit not impossible. (For more on Baltic air policing from Schissler’s interview, see Providing Assurance and Vision)