Kallas calls for U.S. troops in the Baltics

Meinhard Pulk
, journalist
An American M1A2 Abrams tank at the Estonian Defense Forces polygon in Aegviidu.
An American M1A2 Abrams tank at the Estonian Defense Forces polygon in Aegviidu. Photo: Kaitsevägi

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) urged the United States to ramp up its military presence in the Baltic countries in an interview to Financial Times. Russia has amassed over 100,000 troops on the Ukraine border. Kallas wants NATO to boost its eastern flank presence irrespective of whether Russia invades Ukraine or not.

The Estonian PM hinted that the Americans could also move their units to the Baltics. “The best deterrence is having powerful friends. A bully will leave you alone if you have friends who are big and strong. The same goes for deterrence, with the American flag the greatest deterrent one can have against Russia,” she said.

NATO last reinforced its eastern flank after the 2014 annexation of Crimea. Estonia is currently hosting British, Danish and French troops. “We would like to see the eastern flank reinforced in any event. Not only should Russia invade Ukraine. We have been making relevant efforts for a long time,” Kallas told FT.

Biden mulls sending troops to Eastern Europe

U.S. President Joe Biden is considering sending thousands of soldiers, as well as ships and aircraft to reinforce NATO allies in Eastern Europe and the Baltics, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The paper described the signal as a turning point in what has been a restrained U.S. position so far.

High-ranking Pentagon officials presented Biden with several scenarios of moving U.S. military presence closer to Russia during a meeting at Camp David on Saturday. Anonymous sources suggested the options include sending between 1,000 and 5,000 troops to Eastern Europe which figure could grow tenfold should the situation continue to deteriorate. Officials said that Biden could make a decision this week.

NATO dispatching ships and jets to Eastern Europe

NATO allies have readier their troops and dispatched ships and fighter jets to bolster eastern flank defenses, the alliance said on Monday.

“NATO will take all necessary measures to defend all allies, among other things, by reinforcing its eastern flank. We will always react to the security situation deteriorating,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.

The alliance was referring to decisions by Denmark to move a frigate and 160 soldiers and four F-16 fighters to the Baltic region, by Spain to ramp up military fleet assignments and by the Netherlands to “ready its naval and terrestrial rapid response units.” France has voiced readiness to move troops to Romania.

Russia expert: Troops in Baltics hardly a military concern

Pavel Baev, security expert for the Peace Research Institute Oslo, said that NATO units stationed in the Baltics do not pose even a hypothetical military threat for Russia. Leaving aside numerous strategic fantasies, we are left with the fact that physical NATO presence has crossed out plans to unexpectedly attack the Baltics whether to occupy eastern Estonia or secure territory for a land corridor to Kaliningrad. The old plans need to be ramped up considerably for which there are few possibilities – and that is irritating,” Baev said.