July 31, 2007 (AFP) - NATO newcomer Romania took over the transatlantic alliance's patrols of the air space of the three Baltic states Tuesday, replacing France, the Lithuanian defence ministry said. Sixty-seven members of the Romanian military and four Mig-21 Lancer fighters will be deployed at Zokniai air base in northern Lithuania, the ministry said.
Other members of NATO have taken turns patrolling the skies of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania since the three Baltic states joined the alliance three years ago. Romania, which also joined NATO in 2004, is due to patrol the air space for three months before handing over to Portugal.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which emerged from Soviet rule 16 years ago, lack the aircraft and personnel to police their skies themselves. Earlier this year, the three countries asked NATO to extend the air patrol mission until 2018. The current patrol agreement runs out next year.