Blinken wraps up Baltic assurance tour as Ukraine war rages

04:16 PM Mar 08, 2022 | PTI |

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was on the last leg Tuesday of a short tour of the three Baltic states aimed at reassuring the former Soviet republics that NATO will guarantee their security as Russia’s war with Ukraine rolls on unabated.


Blinken was meeting with senior Estonian officials in Tallinn, a day after hearing appeals from both Lithuania and Latvia for more support and greater US and NATO troop presence to deter a feared Russian intervention.

“We will defend every square inch of NATO territory if it comes under attack, if it’s on the receiving end of aggression,” Blinken told Estonian Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets.

Liimets, echoing her Baltic counterparts, denounced the Russian invasion, calling it a direct threat to Europe and particularly to the Baltics.

“As the security situation has changed in Europe we must continue to strengthen the defense and deterrent posture here in NATO, especially here on the eastern flank,” she said.


As the war in Ukraine rages, leaders in all three Baltic states have expressed grave concerns about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions for former Soviet bloc countries that are now allied or otherwise linked to the West.

“We have no illusions about Putin’s Russia anymore,” Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said Monday in Riga. “We don’t really see any good reason to assume that Russia might change its policy.” Rinkevics said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine had shown the Baltic countries in particular the need to bolster air and coastal defenses and that Latvia would like its security cooperation with NATO to be “more efficient.” Lithuanian President Gitanes Nauseda told Blinken in Vilnius that a policy of deterrence was no longer enough and that “forward defense” was now needed. He predicted that “Putin will not stop in Ukraine if he will not be stopped.” Memories of Soviet rule are still fresh in the Baltics and since the Russian invasion of Ukraine last month, NATO has moved quickly to boost its troop presence in its eastern flank allies while the US has pledged additional support.

Support for Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion was palpable in all three Baltics as Ukrainian flags and other signs of solidarity were evident in many businesses and on houses, public buildings and buses.

From Tallinn, Blinken will travel to Paris later Tuesday for a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss his recent conversations with Putin about Ukraine and efforts to convince the Russian leader to end the conflict.


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