‘We will defend every square inch of territory if it comes under attack’: Blinken reassures Baltic states of NATO’s commitment to their security as Russia’s war with Ukraine rages on
- The US Secretary of State is touring the Baltic states to ramp up NATO’s defenses
- Antony Blinken arrived in Estonia on Tuesday in the last day of his European tour
- The talks will include strengthening ‘economic and energy cooperation’
- Blinked will also meet Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, French President Emmanuel Macron, and travel to Moldova, the only non-NATO country on the list
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was on the last leg Tuesday of a short tour of the three Baltic states aimed at reassuring the former Soviet republics that NATO will guarantee their security as Russia’s war with Ukraine rolls on unabated.
Blinken was meeting with senior Estonian officials in Tallinn, a day after hearing appeals from both Lithuania and Latvia for more support and greater US and NATO troop presence to deter a feared Russian intervention.
‘We will defend every square inch of NATO territory if it comes under attack, if it’s on the receiving end of aggression,’ Blinken told Estonian Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets.
Liimets, echoing her Baltic counterparts, denounced the Russian invasion, calling it a direct threat to Europe and particularly to the Baltics.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas pose for photographers on the occasion of their meeting, in Tallinn, Estonia, on Tuesday
Estonian Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets (left) welcomes US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (right) prior to their meeting in Tallinn, Estonia
Latvia and Estonia to discuss assistance to Ukraine, the security situation in Europe and the reinforcement of NATO’s defense capabilities in the Baltic states
‘As the security situation has changed in Europe we must continue to strengthen the defense and deterrent posture here in NATO, especially here on the eastern flank,’ she said.
As the war in Ukraine rages, leaders in all three Baltic states have expressed grave concerns about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions for former Soviet bloc countries that are now allied or otherwise linked to the West.
‘We have no illusions about Putin’s Russia anymore,’ Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said Monday in Riga.
‘We don’t really see any good reason to assume that Russia might change its policy.’
Rinkevics said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine had shown the Baltic countries in particular the need to bolster air and coastal defenses and that Latvia would like its security cooperation with NATO to be ‘more efficient.’
Lithuanian President Gitanes Nauseda told Blinken in Vilnius that a policy of deterrence was no longer enough and that ‘forward defense’ was now needed.
He predicted that ‘Putin will not stop in Ukraine if he will not be stopped.’
Memories of Soviet rule are still fresh in the Baltics and since the Russian invasion of Ukraine last month, NATO has moved quickly to boost its troop presence in its eastern flank allies while the US has pledged additional support.
Support for Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion was palpable in all three Baltics as Ukrainian flags and other signs of solidarity were evident in many businesses and on houses, public buildings and buses.
From Tallinn, Blinken will travel to Paris later Tuesday for a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss his recent conversations with Putin about Ukraine and efforts to convince the Russian leader to end the conflict.
A no-fly zone for manned aircraft and drones is in place between 6am and 8pm on Tuesday as part of the visit.
The latest stop in Estonia comes after Blinken’s visit to Riga, Latvia, where the Secretary of State invoked the death of Putin’s one-year-old brother during the Nazi siege of Leningrad in the second world war in an appeal to the Russian leader.
Almost a million people died during the siege of Leningrad, the bloodiest battle in world history, a death toll worsened by the intentional starving of civilians.
Putin has spoken of his brother in the past, who he says was only one at the time of the siege, as one of the victims of the battle.
Blinken used the family story to make a direct appeal to the Russian president, accusing the Kremlin of ‘starving Ukrainian cities’ as part of its brutal war which has already seen over two million people flee the country.
Russian forces have encircled the southern port city of Mariupol in Ukraine, trapping thousands without food or water.
Blinken shakes hands with Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte (left) at the foreign affairs ministry in Vilnius, Lithuania March 7
Blinken meets with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) in Riga, Latvia on March 7
Blinken and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speak to the media after meeting at the Ukrainian-Polish border crossing in Korczowa, Poland on March 5
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