PARIS, March 20 France's defence minister said
he would travel to Poland and the ex-Soviet Baltic states on
Friday to discuss possible measures to boost their security
after Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
Speaking before EU leaders gather in Brussels for a summit
set to approve tougher sanctions against Russia, Jean-Yves Le
Drian reiterated statements by other European officials that
there were no plans for now for any military intervention.
However he said he would discuss with NATO members Estonia,
Latvia and Lithuania "how we can help their security efforts".
"That means stepping up airspace monitoring and reassuring
them of NATO security guarantees because they are in a situation
of fragility," he told BFM-TV.
In the past fortnight, Washington and NATO have tried to
reassure members of the alliance that were once part of the
Soviet bloc, such as Poland and the Baltic states.
Sending a message that NATO stands with them in any
confrontation with Moscow, the United States deployed F-15
fighters to Lithuania and alliance early warning aircraft have
Le Drian said it was "probable" that EU leaders would later
decide to cancel a EU-Russia summit scheduled for June in the
city of Sochi as part of the next phase of sanctions on Moscow.
He ruled out any early decision by France on a possible
suspension of a major warship contract signed with Moscow in
2011, saying such a decision would only need to be taken before
the scheduled next delivery in October.
France agreed in 2011 to sell two Mistral-class helicopter
carriers to Russia despite the concerns of Georgia and some NATO
(Reporting by Mark John and Chine Labbe; editing by Nicholas