Source: Radio Free Europe
U.S. President Barack Obama has assured Estonia of U.S. support for regional security in the Baltics and the “unbreakable” U.S. commitment to defend any NATO ally against attack.
At a news conference in Tallinn on September 3 after talks with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Obama spoke of Russian “aggression against Ukraine” and said “Estonia will never stand alone.”
Obama also said that Russia’s role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine “gives us an opportunity to understand the importance” of updating and bolstering NATO’s defense capabilities.
The Estonian president also said the conflict in eastern Ukraine is “Russian aggression” and underscores the need for a “robust and visible” NATO presence in his country.
Ilves said “Russia must admit that it is a party to the conflict and take genuine steps for a de-escalation” of the crisis.
After their bilateral talks, Obama and Ilves were to meet with Latvian President Andris Berzins and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.
The talks between Obama and the Baltic leaders come ahead of a NATO summit starting on September 4 in Wales that is expected to focus on the threats posed by Russia’s moves in Ukraine.
The three Baltic states — all former Soviet republics that chafed under Moscow’s rule for decades after World War II — joined the European Union and NATO after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Ilves has said Estonia wants NATO to set up permanent bases on its territory to protect it against potential threats from Russia.
“We should not have NATO with two-tier countries: with NATO permanent bases and without. This is the wrong signal to send to the potential aggressor,” he said on September 2.
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