Veteran U.S. Senator John McCain says the United States is committed to NATO and to providing security to the Baltic region in the face of a bolder Russia.
McCain (Republican-Arizona) said in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, on December 27 that the best way "to prevent Russian misbehavior [is] by having a credible, strong military and strong NATO alliance."
McCain's statement comes amid concern among officials in Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia over President-elect Donald Trump's remark during his campaign that he would consider a country's contributions to NATO before defending it against a military attack.
Trump also made comments questioning NATO's relevance.
"I think the presence of the American troops here in Estonia is a signal that we believe in what [U.S. President] Ronald Reagan believed, and that is peace through strength," McCain told reporters, referring to the some 150 U.S. troops that were stationed in each Baltic country and Poland in 2014, the year Moscow invaded and later annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.
McCain and fellow Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) are on a three-day visit to the Baltics, after which they head for Ukraine, Georgia, and Montenegro.
McCain said he does not expect Washington to remove sanctions against Russia that were imposed due to Russia's involvement in Ukraine.
He also said that the United States, regardless of who was its president, would have "a strong and significant response" as long as Putin continues "to occupy Crimea and interfere in eastern Ukraine and continues to threaten other nations in the region."
Based on reporting Reuters and AP