SOFA agreement with Baltic states quietly signed by Obama before departure clearing way for permanent US military presence
Rubaltic - Translated by Kristina Kharlova
The Baltic States have recognized the special status of the US military in its territory
By Alexander Shamshiev
The US soldiers will receive special legal treatment in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. New rules involve tax incentives, lower prices, immunity from criminal prosecution and potential conflicts with local population.
The Baltic States have agreed with the United States about status of presence of American troops on their territory.
Local media agreed in opinion that negotiations with the American party took place at an accelerated pace to wrap up before the inauguration of Donald Trump, scheduled for January 20. Previously American soldiers visited Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to participate in military exercises and short-term maneuvers. The agreements actually create a legal framework for permanent presence of US military in the three republics. This is what is expected by local authorities. "I am convinced that the presence of US forces is one of the most important factors that will make people of Lithuania feel safer in the current situation, - said Lithuanian defense Minister Karoblis, - and I hope that a permanent presence will continue in the future." Preparations to welcome Americans are in full swing.
The authorities are actively building barracks, and investing in upgrading infrastructure at the bases in Rukla, Adazhi and Tapa, which in the spring will begin to accept the multinational battalions of NATO.
The purpose of SOFAs [Status of Forces Agreements] is to: "Protect against U.S. personnel being subject to host country criminal or civil justice systems. This is important not only to protect U.S. personnel’s rights and to vindicate the U.S. interest in exercising disciplinary authority over its personnel, but also because U.S. willingness to deploy forces overseas – and public support for such deployments – could suffer significant setbacks if U.S. personnel were at risk of being tried in a potentially unfair system. The United States also has an interest in preserving the principle that U.S. military discipline is enforced by the U.S. military justice system." - Lsm.lv
|NATO forces in the Baltics - 2017|
Model agreements on the status of forces and amendments are an integral part of any stable presence of the US army abroad. The Pentagon has signed more than 100 agreements governing the relationship between its military and host countries. Signing a SOFA is considered a prestigious event for the allies. It means that the White house took their defense seriously. Therefore, if the agreements facilitate certain developments, in the long term in can propell Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to the level of America's closest allies, such as Japan, South Korea and Germany.
The Baltic States promised to create a military haven with an abundance of benefits. Among them - preferential tax regime without VAT, taxes on sales and excise taxes, and special stores for the sale of goods at competitive prices. It is indicated that the receiving party does not seek to obtain "additional income" from foreign troops. This fact will certainly depress the municipal authorities and local residents, who planned to cash in on foreign soldiers. In response to the generous reception the American side agrees to strictly comply with Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian laws and not get rowdy.
But from the experience of friendly visits by NATO military incidents can not be avoided.
Guests often provoke an adverse reaction. Last year was no exception: Americans staged a pogrom in Druskininkai waterpark, tore down Lithuanian flag from the building of the prosecutor's office in Kaunas and desecrated it; the servants of Bundeswehr beat a Lithuanian colleague at Rukla base; the British attacked a Latvian in Riga "McDonald's" and broke his nose; Japanese seamen invaded Klaipeda, flooded bars and harassed local residents. Typically, such antics were committed in a drunken state. Defiant behavior and disorderly conduct of the military led the mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs to compare them with occupants. Similar cases periodically happen in other countries – for example, in May 2016 in the Italian Vicenza 13 soldiers of the elite 173rd airborne brigade of the United States were arrested for their part in a mass brawl.