The White House announced Friday that President Barack Obama will jet out to the small Eastern European country of Estonia in early September, before attending a NATO meeting in Wales.
The trip is likely intended to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from grabbing parts of Estonia and its two small neighbors, all of whom contain populations of ethnic Russians. All three countries are member of NATO, and are too small to block a determined Russian invasion.
“In light of recent developments in Ukraine, the United States has taken steps to reassure allies in Central and Eastern Europe, and this trip is a chance to reaffirm our ironclad commitment to Article V as the foundation of NATO,” said a White House statement.
The announcement comes as many media outlets report a growing Russian intervention in the battle between the Ukraine government and ethnic Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Obama’s visit to the Estonia signals U.S. support for the three small countries — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — on Russia’s western border whose population have significant numbers of ethnic-Russians. The ethnic Russians arrived after 1939, when Josef Stalin invaded and occupied all three countries. The invasions were part of the infamous Nazi-Soviet 1939 deal with Adolf Hitler, the head of the German national socialist party, which also divided Poland between Russia and Germany.
All three countries recovered their independence after the Soviet Union collapse in 1989.
“President Obama will visit the Republic of Estonia in early September to further enhance the strong relations between the two countries, and to affirm America’s commitment to our Baltic allies,” said the White House statement.
“In [Estonia’s capital] Tallinn, he will meet with President [Toomas] Ilves, as well as Prime Minister Roivas, to discuss bilateral ties, strategic and regional cooperation, and our shared commitment to the trans-Atlantic partnership,” said the statement.
“The President will also meet with the three Baltic presidents — President Ilves, President [Andris] Berzins of Latvia, and President [Dalia] Grybauskaite of Lithuania — to discuss ongoing cooperation on regional security and policies that support economic growth, and to discuss collective defense.”