The NATO military bloc announced Monday that its troops deployed in the Baltic States will stay in those countries as part of their ongoing operations in Eastern Europe.
The alliance deployed several hundred U.S. troops in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia earlier this year. The move was justified as an effort to give confidence to these NATO members, after tensions with Russia reached unprecedented heights after the Ukranian crisis. Originally, the troops were set to stay in theses countries until the end of 2014.
“There are going to be U.S. Army forces here in Lithuania, as well as Estonia and Latvia and Poland, for as long as is required to deter Russian aggression and to assure our allies,” said Lieutenant-General Frederick Ben Hodges, Commanding General of the U.S. Army in Europe.
Originally, the troops were set to stay in theses countries until the end of 2014, but now NATO said they will stay for at least another 12 months.
The announcement comes as Ukraine is seeking to become a member of the military alliance, despite Russia’s opposition.
Moscow requested the West last week guarantees that Kiev would not join the military bloc. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the BBC on Monday that NATO is breaking a historic promise by gradually approaching Russia’s borders.
Lithuania joined other NATO members in offering military assistance to Ukraine. It is not clear whether these aid offers will include lethal equipment.
Peace efforts between the Ukrainian government and the rebel forces have been halted since the separatists [sic] held local elections in defiance of Kiev. In the weeks following the Minsk agreement, almost 1,000 people have been killed in Eastern Ukraine, according to United Nations’ figures.
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