In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Georgia, NATO needs “to send signals” to the Baltic states that it will protect them from military attack, Kurt Volker, the U.S. ambassador to the defense alliance, has told the Financial Times newspaper.
“They are feeling a little rattled by seeing Russia use military force to invade a sovereign, small neighboring country,” Volker told the newspaper during an interview in Brussels following a European Union summit on the Georgian situation. “We need to send signals to shore them up a little bit.”
As members of the defense alliance, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania need to be assured of NATO’s principle that an attack on one ally is to be answered by the entire alliance.
The Sept. 3 Financial Times article noted that all three Baltic countries have been outspoken in NATO and EU discussions about Russia’s invasion of Georgia. Latvia’s President Valdis Zatlers and Foreign Minister Māris Riekstiņš were among those condemning Russia’s actions in Georgia following the Aug. 9 invasion. Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis joined the presidents of several Eastern European nations in a visit to Tbilisi to show support for Georgia. Russia’s invasion was in response to Georgian military action in the breakway region of South Ossetia.
The paper also noted the large Russian minority populations in the Baltics. Russian officials have frequently been critical of Estonia’s and Latvia’s relations with Russian speakers in their countries.
Volker recommended military “planning and exercising” to shore up NATO’s presence in the Baltics, the Financial Times reported.
“We need to do what NATO ought to do, not in a provocative way and not in a rushed or hasty way,” Volker told the newspaper. “But NATO being credible is what’s important.”
The EU summit stopped short of issuing sanctions against Russia, a decision that met with approval from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. However, the EU did decide to postpone talks with Russia over a partnership agreement, is sending emergency and reconstruction aid to Georgia, and called on nations not to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
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