U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that the United States would periodically station troops in the Baltic states in an effort to deter Russia. According to a joint statement signed at Trump's meeting with the presidents of the Baltic states.
President Kersti Kaljulaid along with Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė met with Trump in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. After the meeting, the presidents stated that they will look for new ways of enhancing regional air defense in the Baltic states on both bilateral grounds as well as within NATO.
"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," the joint declaration approved at the meeting reads. "We continue to explore new ideas and opportunities, including air defense, bilaterally and in NATO, to enhance deterrence across the region."
From 2014 to 2017 the U.S. had a company-size unit deployed to the Baltic states. However, the troops were moved to Poland after other allies placed NATO battalions in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. U.S. troops are currently coming to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania for training purposes and are not on a regular schedule.
Baltic officials have called for U.S. troops to be stationed permanently in their countries, while the wording of the joint declaration concerning periodic deployment suggests that major changes are unlikely in the nearest future.
In an effort to improve their air defense, the Baltic states have invited the U.S. to station Patriot air defense systems here, and would also like to be included in a joint air defense shield.
According to the Baltic News Service, Lithuanian diplomats have said that the mention of development of air defense in the declaration is the first U.S. commitment of this type, which is important to secure progress during the NATO summit scheduled for July.
In the declaration, the U.S. also restates its "ironclad commitment to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty," which consolidates the principle of collective defense.
Editor: Dario Cavegn