May-June 2018 Articles


With more than a nervous glance over their shoulders at their old nemesis, Russia, the foreign ministers of the three Baltic States met then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in March for assurances of continued U.S. support for the region. A statement afterwards by the foreign minister of Lithuania, Linas Linkevicius, quotes him as saying there was a “consensus of opinion on both strategic goals and tactical steps” with Washington on issues of importance to the Baltic States including security, defense cooperation, economic development and ways to strengthen transatlantic ties.

Moscow’s invasion and occupation of Ukrainian territory, and its security implications for the Baltic states loomed over a large part of the discussion. Linkeviius, along with his two counterparts, Edgars Rinkevics of Latvia, and Estonia’s Sven Mikser, stressed the importance of maintaining sanctions against Russia. “Through the sanctions we seek to encourage the Kremlin to change its aggressive policies,” Linkevicius declared.

But the meeting also focused on preparations for the U.S.-Baltic States Summit that took place on April 3 in Washington. It was opened by President Trump jointly with the presidents of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. Also discussed was the upcoming 2018 NATO summit in Brussels in July, an agenda that includes the Alliance’s so-called deterrence toolbox looking at issues of missile defense, conventional forces, and the development of more cybersecurity. NATO’S cybersecurity effort is directed from a headquarters in Tallinn, capital of Estonia.

A diplomatic reminder was expressed that Lithuania, like other Baltic states, annually allocated 2 percent of GDP to defense, a NATO requirement honored by very few Alliance members. The perceived shortfall in defense spending in Europe has been a sore point with President Trump who in the past appears to have made Article 5 in the NATO agreement dependent on compliance with NATO defense expenditure targets. Article 5 states that an attack on one member would be considered an attack on the Organization as a whole.

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