Dear service members,
I am extremely pleased to welcome you to Ämari Air Base and to be a part of the ceremony marking the beginning of the 38th rotation of NATO Air Policing mission in the Baltic States, and fourth rotation from Ämari. Until September, Belgium, Italy, Norway and the United Kingdom will make sure that the integrity of Alliance’s airspace is preserved in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. This collective effort is a good example demonstrating Alliance’s solidarity and commitment. It sends a clear message of 28 for 28.
This mission carries a very strong visible sign for Estonia. We tend to call your over flights the whisper of freedom. But over the last year this mission has also proved its practical necessity and importance as NATO has scrambled more than 150 times in response to Russian intensified air activity over the Baltic States. And this is four times more than in 2013.
Saying that, allow me to warmly welcome the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force. I can assure you that it will be a busy but also professionally interesting deployment for you. At the same time it is also a step forward in our strategic relationship with the UK. We forged close links with the United Kingdom during our 10-year combat operation together in Helmand province in Afghanistan. We both remain committed to the building of effective Afghan security structures and we also remain committed to strengthening Alliance’s deterrence posture, whether through the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) or possible joint-contribution to Very High Readiness Task Force. I welcome your Air Force to Ämari and I am sure you will see that no effort is spared from our side to make your stay here as good as possible.
Allow me to thank Spain and the Spanish Air Force for your astounding work and contribution to our collective security Your commitment to the Baltic Air Policing mission makes it crystal clear that there are no divisions between the East and the South in our collective defence efforts. We stand by the principle that all Allies must have an equal level of security. I hope you found your deployment both professionally beneficial and were treated well during the cold winter months spent up here in the North. On our side, we are looking forward to participating the NATO Response Force live exercise Trident Juncture 15 in Spain this autumn.
And last, but not least, allow me to thank the Estonian Defence Forces, and the Air Force particularly, for making this all possible. You have hosted Baltic Air Policing mission in Ämari for a full year now, there have been numerous exercises, deployments, visits. Your professionalism and good work is globally known. Thank you for that and your excellent service.