Latvia and Lithuania have called for a US military presence over their concerns that they could face Russian aggression.
Officials called for the move at meetings with US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, who is currently visiting European capitals, Reuters reported on Monday.
He spent the weekend in Moldova and Poland, after which he visited Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – all NATO members that were once part of the Soviet Union and all now concerned that Russia could attack them.
Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nausėda warned Blinken that “Russia’s reckless aggression” could spark a world war.
“Deterrence is no longer enough and we need forward defence here in place because otherwise it will be too late here, Mr. Secretary”, Nausėda warned, predicting that President Vladimir “Putin will not stop in Ukraine if he will not be stopped.”
Russia continues to describe its attack on Ukraine as a “special operation” and claims that it the aim is not occupation, but rather to weaken military capabilities and capture people it regards to be dangerous nationalists.
After visiting Lithuania, Blinken met with Latvia’s President Egils Levits, Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš and Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkēvičs in Riga also on Monday.
At a joint press conference, Rinkēvičs pointed out “we have no illusions about Putin’s Russia anymore, we don’t really see any good reason to assume Russia might change its policy.”
He called for a permanent US military presence in the country.
In Lithuania, Blinken stated that NATO is considering more permanent deployments and reviewing its defence posture. “No one should doubt our readiness, no one should doubt our resolve”, he stressed, noting that the US is fully committed to mutual defence in NATO.
NATO members have strengthened their military presence in the Baltic countries and have announced plans to deploy more troops and equipment there. Blinken said some 400 US troops are due to arrive in Lithuania in the coming days.
He pointed out that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine violates principles designed to maintain peace. “It’s important that people understand what’s actually at stake and it goes beyond even Ukraine, beyond even the Baltic countries, beyond even Europe”, he asserted.