Skip navigation

Aims of the Baltic military co-operation

Soon after regaining their national independence, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania initiated regular meetings on defence matters. In 1994 the first combined Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian military exercise took place in southern Estonia. The initiative to establish the first Baltic military project – the Baltic Battalion – dates back to 1993-1994. The Commanders of the Defence Forces of the three countries introduced the idea, which soon found extensive support from Western states. Proceeding from the concept used in the setting up of the Baltic Battalion, several new military co-operation projects were launched.

At present the military co-operation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania involves four long-term military projects:

  • Baltic Battalion (BALTBAT) – infantry battalion for participation in international peace support operations;
  • Baltic Naval Squadron (BALTRON) – naval force with mine countermeasures capabilities;
  • Baltic Air Surveillance Network (BALTNET) – air surveillance information system;
  • Baltic Defence College (BALTDEFCOL) – joint military educational institution for training senior staff officers.

The Baltic military projects, cultivated by the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) initiative, are unique in the broad international support and assistance they have received. States supporting the various projects include both NATO member states and non-aligned countries.

Supporting countries: United States of America, France, Belgium, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, Iceland, Finland, Switzerland, Norway, United Kingdom, Poland, Denmark.

Baltic military co-operation projects have assisted in developing the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian defence structures in accordance with the traditions and procedures of Western countries. The projects provide Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with experience in international co-operation and consensus building, and give the defence forces of the three states more visibility at home and abroad.

An important part of the Baltic defence co-operation is achievement of interoperability between the defence structures of the three states and NATO. Joint projects help to implement common command and operational standards in the Baltic region. The procedural, language and equipment standards used in the projects and applied in the framework of NATO/PfP improve the interoperability of the Baltic states and NATO/PfP. The projects are led by permanent multinational staffs which follow NATO procedures and formats to the greatest extent possible.
English is the official working and command language for all of the projects.

The role of the co-operation projects in the development of the defence structures is not limited to the projects themselves. Participant officers are rotated within the national defence forces, thereby spreading the skills and experience to the national defence structures. The aspect of training applies at all levels of the projects – management, implementation and operation. At the same time the Defence Ministries involved gain expertise in international co-operation and, more specifically, on how to run co-operation programmes and multilateral projects.

The Estonian Ministry of Defence views Baltic defence co-operation projects as one of the major tools for developing and facilitating the co-operation between partner and alliance structures. In the individual states the projects have already become a part of NATO’s extended planning and reporting process. Particular attention is paid to the future prospects of the projects and NATO’s extended peace partnership programme, specifically to its recently defined model of actual operation.

Project management, co-ordination and international support

A number of international agreements and administrative arrangements have been concluded between the various authorities of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to ensure proper legal and administrative framework for the projects. The agreements lay out the political and legal setting for launching and implementation of the projects, while the administrative arrangements outline the administration and shared responsibilities.

The international support rendered to the projects is based on the administrative arrangements, which set the terms of co-operation, responsibilities in the projects, and project co-ordination and management.
The project management occurs at two parallel levels: between the Baltic states themselves and between the Baltic states and the supporting countries.

Baltic project management, co-ordination and planning

The legal framework for BALTBAT, BALTRON and BALTNET establishes the Ministerial Committee, a body consisting of the Baltic Defence Ministers, which serves as the highest political authority in all of these projects. The Ministerial Committee adopts project plans, makes policy decisions and defines and approves activity plans. The highest military authority in the projects is vested in the Military Committee, consisting of Commanders of the Defence Forces of the Baltic states. Similar to the Ministerial Committee, a separate Military Committee is founded for each of the projects, but the committees meet and act as one forum.

In order to enhance the implementation and co-ordination of the projects, the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian Defence Ministers have decided to appoint a lead nation for each of the projects for fixed periods.

Baltic Lead Nations in 1999

  • Estonia: Lead Nation of BALTRON
  • Latvia: Lead Nation of BALTBAT
  • Latvia: Lead Nation of BALTDEFCOL
  • Lithuania: Lead Nation of BALTNET

In 1999, the Defence Ministers established the Baltic Management Group, responsible for co-ordinating issues of mutual concern, preparing joint plans and decisions, and facilitating the national implementation and co-ordination of international support and assistance. The initiative in each project rests with the Ministry of Defence of the Baltic state appointed lead nation of the respective project. The lead nation co-ordinates the decisions and activities of representatives of the Baltic states.

Three Baltic military co-ordination groups – one for BALTBAT, one for BALTRON and one for BALTNET – work in support of the Military Committee. The Baltic Management Group and the three military co-ordination groups work in close liaison as they prepare plans, standards and further developments for decision and approval in the Military Committee and the Ministerial Committee.

Co-ordination between the Baltic states and supporting countries

Bilateral and multilateral support of defence structures in the Baltic states is co-ordinated by the Baltic Security Assistance Forum (BALTSEA), established in 1997.

Supporting Lead Nations

  • Germany: BALTRON
  • Denmark: BALTBAT
  • Sweden: BALTDEFCOL
  • Norway: BALTNET

Multinational steering groups, chaired by the supporting lead nation, have been established in co-operation between the Baltic states and the supporting countries for each project, in order to secure the development and co-ordination of the projects.

The steering groups consist of representatives of the Ministries of Defence of the Baltic states and the supporting countries. The main task of the steering groups is to supervise and have overall control of the multinational programme of assistance. Specialised military or technical working groups, responsible for developing detailed aspects of the support programme and for implementing of the co-ordinated project plan, work in support of the steering groups.

The management of BALTDEFCOL differs somewhat from the management structure chosen for the other three projects. For the decision of matters concerning military education, the Baltic states have established an Education Board responsible for ensuring academic and administrative development of the institution and implementation of standards. The Education Board consists of representatives of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and the college. The supporting countries are invited to participate in the work of the Education Board as observers.

Last updated: 8. December 2020, 12:09

Scroll to top