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Lithuanian President Says Baltics Seek Greater NATO Security Ahead Of Russian Exercises


Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite says the Baltic states will seek additional security measures from the United States and NATO ahead of a massive Russian military exercise in September.

"We see that risks are increasing, and we are worried about the upcoming Zapad 2017 exercise, which will deploy a very large and aggressive force [on our borders] that will very demonstrably be preparing for a war with the West," Grybauskaite said on February 9 after meeting with the Estonian and Latvian presidents in Riga.

She added: "This means we will be talking with NATO about creating additional standing defense plans, about stationing additional military means, and about creating a faster decision-making process."

NATO has begun deploying four battle units of about 1,000 soldiers each to the Baltic states and Poland as part of agreements made under U.S. President Barack Obama amid an increasingly aggressive posture from Russia.

Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia have felt vulnerable since Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and its backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine.

U.S. President Donald Trump's praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin and seemingly soft take on Russian behavior has added to the Baltic states' security worries.

Russia announced last year plans to stage the Zapad 2017 exercise near its western borders.

The Kremlin has said the NATO deployments to the Baltics and Poland pose a security threat.

Based on reporting by Reuters
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