Trump vows periodical dispatch of US troops to Baltic states, step up air defense

President Trump meets the presidents of the Baltic States in the White House
Reuters / Scanpix

At the meeting in Washington D.C., the presidents of the US, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia also stated they would search for new ways of enhancing regional air defense on both bilateral grounds and in the NATO format.

“The United States of America intends to continue periodic deployment of forces to the Baltic States to strengthen deterrence and to catalyze the efforts of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to develop their national defense,” reads a joint declaration approved at the meeting.

“We continue to explore new ideas and opportunities, including air defense, bilaterally and in NATO, to enhance deterrence across the region,” the four presidents said.

The US had deployed a company of troops in all three Baltic states in the 2014-2017 period, however, the troops were pulled out to Poland after other Allies placed a NATO battalion in each of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The US troops now arrive for training on irregular basis.

Lithuanian officials want US troops to be permanently stationed in the country. The Tuesday’s wording about periodic deployment means that major changes are unlikely in the nearest future.

In an effort to enhance air defense, Lithuania has been inviting the US to bring their Patriot air defense systems, which are capable of taking down aircraft or ballistic missiles. The Baltic nations also want to be included in a joint air defense shield.

Lithuania’s diplomats say the mention of development of air defense in the declaration is the first US commitment of this type, which is important to secure progress during the NATO summit scheduled for July.

In the declaration, the US also restated its “ironclad commitment to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty,” which consolidates the principle of collective defense.

Trump had caused concerns in the Baltic states after criticizing NATO and speaking warmly of Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, his decision to supply arms to Ukraine and expulsion of Russian diplomats cleared some of the concerns.

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