The United States has stationed dozens of its Special Operations forces in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania who fear an imminent threat from an increasingly assertive Russia, The New York Times reported.
The Baltic countries — former Soviet republics that regained independence amid the collapse of the Soviet Union over two decades ago — have been alarmed by Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine and the increasing activity of Russian forces in the Baltic Sea.
“They’re scared to death of Russia,” Gen Raymond T. Thomas, the head of the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command said of the tiny militaries of the Baltic states.
He said the three countries are “desperate” for American leadership.
Moscow is aware of the quiet deployment of the US troops, the commander added.
The US troops carry with them sophisticated surveillance technology and broad intelligence sources while their Baltic partners possess thorough understanding of Russia’s conventional military tactics and use of cyberwarfare.
Nato forces, including from the US, have stepped up military exercises in the Baltics and other Eastern European nations in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and patrolling by Russian military forces off the coasts of the Baltics and Western Europe. Nato will send some 800 to 1,200 troops in each of the three Baltic states and Poland this spring.
The deployment of about a dozen American Special Operations forces in the three Baltic countries is a part of the larger allied military strategy to deter any future Russian aggression.
Russia has in the past dismissed fears concerning its deployment of nuclear capable ballistic missiles in a city sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland as routine drills.
Nervous about the looming threat from their former Soviet overlord, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have increased spending on new defence equipment to $390 million in 2016, from $210m in 2014, the NYT said.
courtesy : dawn news