VILNIUS — The NATO Western military alliance on Tuesday approved a new defence plan for Poland and the Baltic states after the allies reached a compromise with Turkey which had been vetoing it, officials said.
The deal marked a breakthrough after months of talks over Turkey's demand to receive more support in its fight against a Kurdish militia in Syria before it allowed the plan to come into effect.
NATO leaders agreed to the plan at a summit in December but Ankara has until now stopped it from being enacted.
NATO defence plans are classified but Lithuanian officials have repeatedly said they were seeking stronger air defence and swifter deployment of allied forces in case of crisis.
A NATO diplomatic source in Brussels and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said that the plans were approved but did not give further details.
"The issue has been resolved and the plans are approved," Linkevicius said.
"Turkey acted constructively, strongly defending its interests as it always does, and its actions were never directed against the Baltic states. We should not dramatise it, the result is positive and we welcome it," he said.
Ankara had used its veto because it had wanted NATO to recognise the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) as terrorists, a demand left unfulfilled by the defence alliance.
The conflict notably led to a spat between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron at the summit in December.
NATO approved its first defence plan for the Baltic states and Poland back in 2010 but they have sought for it to be consistently updated, notably after Crimea joined Russia in 2014.
9,500 troops in Germany to be slashed
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has approved a plan to slash the US military presence in Germany by 9,500 troops, the Defense Department said on Tuesday.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said the move, which has sparked concerns in Berlin and in the NATO alliance, is to redeploy the troops and will "enhance Russian deterrence, strengthen NATO, (and) reassure allies," as well as improving US strategic flexibility.
The move will cut the current troop level in Germany from about 34,500 to 25,000, Trump's stated goal.
Hoffmann gave no details on when the reductions would happen or whether the troops would be redeployed to another NATO country.
He said the Pentagon will brief Congress on the plan "in the coming weeks" and then consult allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation "on the way forward."
Trump said earlier this month he was cutting troops due to unhappiness with Germany.
On June 15, two weeks after Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would not attend a Trump-planned G7 summit because of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump complained Berlin is not spending enough on its own defense and treats the United States "badly" on trade.
"We're negotiating with them on that, but right now I'm not satisfied with the deal they want to make. They've cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars over the years on trade, so we get hurt on trade and we get hurt on NATO."
"It's a tremendous cost to the United States," he said. "So we're removing a number down to, we're putting the number down to 25,000 soldiers." — AFP