VILNIUS, LITHUANIA (AP) – United States (US) Secretary of State Antony Blinken yesterday assured Lithuania of NATO protection and American support as he began a lightning visit to the three Baltic states that are increasingly on edge as Russia presses ahead with its invasion of Ukraine.
The former Soviet republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are all NATO members and Blinken is aiming to reassure them of their security in the event Russia chooses to expand its military operations.
“We are bolstering our shared defence so that we and our allies are prepared,” Blinken said, stressing that the US commitment to NATO’s mutual defence pact is “sacrosanct”.
“We will defend every inch of NATO territory if it comes under attack,” he said. “No one should doubt our readiness, no one should doubt our resolve.”
Memories of Soviet rule are still fresh in the Baltics and since the 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.
Blinken’s opened his Baltic tour in Vilnius, where Lithuanian support for Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion is palpable as signs of solidarity with Ukrainians are evident in many businesses and on public buildings and buses.
“Unfortunately, the worsening security situation in the Baltic region is of great concern for all of us and around the world,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda told Blinken.
“Russia’s reckless aggression against Ukraine once again proves that it is a long-term threat to European security, the security of our alliance.”
Nauseda said that a policy of deterrence was no longer enough and that “forward defence” was now needed. He predicted that “Putin will not stop in Ukraine if he will not be stopped”.