NATO Baltic allies are becoming increasingly worried about a Russian incursion amid the Kremlin’s aggressive actions in Ukraine and are looking for leadership from the U.S.
The U.S. has reportedly deployed special operations forces to each country to increase training assistance and to bolster U.S. intelligence efforts against Russia.
“They’re scared to death of Russia,” Army Gen. Raymond Thomas told The New York Times after a visit to Lithuania. “They are very open about that. They’re desperate for our leadership.”
The Baltic states have become increasingly worried over President Barack Obama’s response to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Along with annexation, Russia also arms and supports separatist militias in eastern Ukraine, which are in an ongoing war with the Ukrainian government.
Ukraine gave up the third largest nuclear weapons arsenal in 1991 in exchange for guarantees from the U.S. and Russia that its territorial integrity would be ensured.
Obama has strongly condemned Russia’s annexation and has provided limited aid to the Ukrainian military for its efforts, but has not spearheaded any diplomatic or military effort to end the conflict. This limited response to a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty has some Baltic allies fearing the U.S. may not uphold its NATO obligations if Russia attacks.
Under Article 5 of the NATO alliance, an attack on one country is an attack on all. Some Baltic allies fear the U.S. may not come to their aid in the event of a Russian attack.
Lithuania reinstated conscription in 2015, after feeling increasingly abandoned by the U.S. and broader NATO. Estonia even began training groups of insurgents to mount guerrilla attacks against a prospective Russian invasion.
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