U.S. troops to remain in Baltics, Poland next year

VILNIUS (Reuters) - The United States will keep troops in Poland and the Baltic states for at least the next year as tensions with Russia remain, the commander of U.S. land forces in Europe said on Sunday.
Several hundred U.S. troops were deployed in Poland and the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia earlier this year after Russia seized Ukraine's Crimea region in March. The deployment was part of Washington's efforts to reassure the nervous eastern European allies that NATO would offer protection from any Russian threat.
Originally planned until the end of this year, the "persistent presence" mission of overlapping units on rotation is going to continue, Lieutenant-General Frederick Ben Hodges, Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe told reporters in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.
"We have planned rotations out through next year. Units are designated that will continue to do this", Hodges said.
"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," he said.
All three Baltic states used to be part of the Soviet Union.
Permanent stationing of U.S. and other units in the Baltics and Poland remains off the table, in part due to concerns this would breach a 1997 Russia-NATO agreement.
(Reporting by Andrius Systas; Editing by Johan Ahlander and Stephen Powell)

Write to Your Congressperson!

Raise your voice!  Sample letter text is supplied by Matti Prima:

 Dear Congressman/woman: 

Congratulations on your recent electoral victory.  (personalize the letter in this section). 

I’m writing to draw your attention to HR 5241, introduced in the House earlier this year by Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11) and co-sponsored by Chabot (OH-1), Moran, (VA-8), Kinzinger (IL-16) Ribble (WI-8) et al.  It’s called the Crimea Annexation Non-Recognition Act, and it would prohibit the U.S. government from recognizing Russian sovereignty over Crimea.
Personally, I think this bill is important beyond its narrow scope.  I worry that until somebody draws the line in front of Putin and shows strength and commitment, this man will run roughshod over any part of the world that he covets – possibly even reassembling parts of the old USSR under his current regime.  
(If they are not already on the Baltic Caucus, see link, please ask them to kindly consider becoming part of this Caucus). 

I hope you will lend your support to this important bill and to its companion in the Senate.




White House FACT SHEET: U.S. Support and Reassurance Initiatives for the Baltics and Central Europe

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

FACT SHEET: U.S. Support and Reassurance Initiatives for the Baltics and Central Europe

For more than two decades, the United States has worked together with its Baltic and Central European Allies to advance our common defense and security goals in support of a Europe whole, free, and at peace. The United States has taken action, both bilaterally and through NATO, to reassure Allies of our solemn commitment to their security and territorial integrity and to show how seriously we take our NATO Article 5 collective defense obligations. A persistent, rotational U.S. air, land, and sea presence in the region is a necessary and appropriate show of support to Allies who are now deeply concerned by Russia’s military intervention in Crimea and its efforts to destabilize Ukraine. 

The United States stands by its Allies, as they have stood by us – our Baltic and Central European Allies have contributed robustly and bravely to Alliance operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere.  We look forward to discussing how to further enhance reassurance, readiness and deterrence at the September 4-5 NATO Summit in Wales, and will continue to take actions that increase the capability, readiness, and responsiveness of NATO forces.  That is why the President has called on Congress to support a European Reassurance Initiative of up to $1 billion, which will enable us in the next year to undertake measures to:

  • Increase U.S. military presence in Europe;
  • Conduct additional bilateral and multilateral exercises and training with Allies and partners;
  • Improve infrastructure to allow for greater responsiveness;
  • Enhance prepositioning of U.S. equipment in Europe;
  • Intensify efforts to build partner capacity for new NATO Allies and other partners;
  • Strengthen the capacity of non-NATO partners.

New U.S. Measures

  • Land Force Deployments:  In April, approximately 600 paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade deployed for training rotations in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland to enhance ongoing military-to-military relationships and demonstrate assurance of America's commitment to its NATO Allies.  These exercises are part of a series of expanded American land force training activities with European partners that are scheduled to take place over the next few months and beyond.

United States Ongoing / Steady State Measures

  • U.S. Force Presence:  There are approximately 67,000 service members in Europe.  Approximately 57,000 active duty service members are assigned to U.S. European Command, and approximately 10,000 support other organizations, such as U.S. Africa Command.
  • NATO Response Force (NRF) Commitment:  The United States has pledged several thousand service members to the NRF, including a brigade combat team from the Texas-based 1st Cavalry Division, a hospital ship, air-to-air refueling tankers, and escort ships.
  • Army Rotational Forces:  The United States sends a battalion-sized unit from the United States to Europe twice a year for up to two months per rotation.  One of these battalions recently participated in NRF exercise ROCHAMBEAU in France and is currently participating in U.S. European Command-hosted multinational exercise COMBINED RESOLVE II.  Additionally, elements of the unit participated in NATO Exercise STEADFAST JAZZ this past November.
  • U.S. National Guard Partnership: Since 1993 U.S. National Guard forces have partnered with their counterparts in the Baltic states, an initiative that has since expanded and now includes programs across almost all of Eastern Europe.  We attach great value to these enduring partnerships, which have enhanced mutual understanding between our forces and improved our ability to operate together in the field. 
  • Exercises in the Baltic Sea:  The United States sent U.S. Marines from the Black Sea Rotational Force to the Baltics this April to participate in exercise SUMMER SHIELD.  U.S. forces participated in exercises NAMEJS and FLAMING SWORD in Latvia and Lithuania, respectively, in May and participated in multilateral exercises BALTOPS and SABER STRIKE in the Baltic region in June.  The United States deployed 18 F-16CJs and one KC-135 tanker to Łask Air Base, Poland, concurrent with the SABER STRIKE and BALTOPS exercise.  BALTOPS is an annual, multinational maritime exercise focusing on interoperability, maritime security, and cooperation among Baltic Sea regional partners.  SABER STRIKE is an annual, multinational ground and air exercise focused on enhancing interoperability among U.S. Army units and the land forces of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

NATO Measures

  • New Exercises:  NATO launched a large-scale exercise, STEADFAST JAVELIN 1, in Estonia on May 16, which tested Allied forces on their ability to work together as well as maintaining NATO’s readiness and combat effectiveness.  The exercise reflects NATO’s strong commitment to collective defense in the Baltic region.  Around 6,000 troops from Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the United States participated in the eight day exercise.  Many participants were already in Estonia taking part in the annual Estonian-led KEVADTORM14 exercise that began on May 5 and that was merged into the NATO-led event.  From September 3-9, troops from the United States, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Canada, and Italy will conduct a series of exercises in multiple locations in all three Baltic countries as part of the STEADFAST JAVELIN series of exercises.  
  • AWACS:  On March 10, the North Atlantic Council approved establishing AWACS orbits over Poland and Romania to enhance NATO’s situational awareness of activities in the region and to reassure NATO Allies.  These aircraft will only fly over NATO territory and will come from the NATO fleet and Allied contributions.
  • Standing Naval Forces:  In late April, NATO activated Standing NATO Mine Counter-Measures Group One and sent it to patrol the Baltic Sea.  The group, which consists of six ships from Belgium, Estonia, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, and Poland, is conducting port visits and participated in an annual mine clearance operation (NATO naval exercise OPEN SPIRIT 2014).  On May 12, NATO tasked its augmented Standing NATO Maritime Group One to perform maritime assurance measures alongside counter-terrorism patrols in the eastern Mediterranean.  The group includes five ships from Canada, Germany, Norway, Turkey, and the United States.
  • Revised Planning:  NATO is reviewing its plans and posture and is developing a Readiness Action Plan that includes a review of joint exercises, threat assessments, intelligence-sharing arrangements, early-warning procedures, and crisis response planning.  Allied leaders will discuss the Readiness Action Plan at the Wales Summit.
  • Support to Ukraine:  At NATO’s Foreign Ministerial in April, Allies agreed upon a number of measures to strengthen NATO’s partnership with Ukraine and support democratic reforms.  Measures included an increased engagement with the Ukrainian civilian and military leadership.  President Obama along with other Allied leaders will meet with Ukraine’s President Poroshenko during a formal session of the NATO-Ukraine Commission at the Wales Summit to discuss further enhancing the NATO-Ukraine partnership.

EANC letter to President Obama 9/1/14


Office of the President
9814 Hill Streeet, Kensington, MD 20895
September 1, 2014

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

Estonian Americans applaud your upcoming visit to Estonia and hope that it signifies not only symbolic, but increased tangible U.S. support to the Baltic countries, Poland, and of course, Ukraine.

The protection that comes with being a NATO member is vital to its newest partners, and U.S. involvement and support in demonstrating this support is welcome and necessary. We were pleased to hear that the White House has reaffirmed its commitment to the security of all NATO members. The establishment of permanent NATO bases in the Baltic countries and Poland would provide further significant deterrence to Russian aggression in their region. In view of Russia’s actions, NATO should consider any previous agreements with Russia regarding NATO bases to be null and void. Only a convincing display of U.S. and NATO power will cause Russia to refrain from further acts of aggression.

Additionally, if Ukraine loses this war started by Russia because Europe and the U.S. refuse to supply Ukraine with adequate military weapons, equipment, and aid, Vladimir Putin will likely see his way clear to continue on with other military conquests, irregardless of additional economic and other sanctions the West
might impose. The tactic of diplomacy combined providing only non-lethal military aid to Ukraine for fear of antagonizing Putin is not working. We urge you to support Ukraine in this war with all needed military assistance!

Finally, we urge you to convince France to stop the sale of the Mistral warships to Russia. The upcoming NATO summit provides the opportunity for creative solutions to this issue, including the purchase of the warships by NATO, or providing economic recompense to France in some other way.

We look forward to your remarks in Estonia, and to a forceful and decisive US presence at the NATO summit in Wales.

With best wishes,
Marju Rink-Abel
President, Estonian American National Council, Inc.
cc: Secretary of State
Secretary of Defense

JBANC letter to President Obama on the eve of his visit to Estonia to meet with Baltic leaders

August 31, 2014 
The President 
The White House 
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW 
Washington, DC 20500 

Dear Mr. President: 
The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC), representing Americans of Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian heritage, appreciates the great significance of your visit to Estonia on September 3, 2014, and the meeting with the leaders of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. This is all the more important given Russia’s escalating war against Ukraine, continued threats to the region, and the upcoming NATO Summit in Wales. 

This opportunity should be used to send a strong message to Vladimir Putin: that the United States and its NATO allies will not waver in their obligation to support and defend our Baltic allies in line with the NATO Charter and its commitments. A continued active and enduring NATO presence in the Baltics, with U.S. leadership, is absolutely critical. 

We, the U.S. citizens of Baltic extraction, are committed in supporting the turning back of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We applaud Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s visit to Washington on September 18 as a strong signal of support of the Ukrainian people in their struggle for freedom and independence. We also support the provision of necessary military arms and aid to Ukraine to help them in their fight with Russia to regain their territory. As the United States stood steadfast for half a century in never recognizing the Soviet occupation of the Baltic countries, we must never recognize Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea, or any other territories he has or intends to take over. 

Additionally, France’s impending sale of Mistral assault ships to Russia should be strongly condemned, as it presents a grave potential threat to the region. The United States and its allies must continue to speak up firmly against this very unfortunate move, and should instead explore ways to procure these ships for NATO’s use. 

Implementation of the most severe sanctions against individuals in the Putin regime and critical sectors of the Russian economy are needed immediately. It is also imperative to beat Putin in the information war being waged right now, by exposing Moscow’s lies and presenting our values via competent and fully-funded U.S. international broadcasting. 

The success of the transatlantic relationship in the decades after the Second World War must not be undone by the treacherous and lawless imperial ambitions of the Putin regime. It is an outrage and tragedy that he is now replicating historical violence through the invasion of neighbors and the exports of xenophobia, hate, murder, and outright lies. Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and threats to the security of Central and Eastern Europe are stark reminders of his Soviet and Nazi predecessors. 

On August 23, on the anniversary of the signing of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, we commemorated on “Black Ribbon Day” the victims of Soviet and Nazi aggression. These ruthless dictators divided Europe between themselves and began the Second World War, condemning many millions of innocent people to destruction and inhuman suffering. Half a century later, millions of hands were joined across Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in a nearly 400 mile human chain to demonstrate the people’s desire for the restoration of freedom and independence of the Baltic countries. Their spirit and bravery in the face of possible Soviet crackdowns was remarkable. These lessons learned are still applicable today. We are seeing them in Ukraine. 

We trust that America’s message and actions will be loud and clear. 

Karl Altau 
Managing Director 
Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc.
Estonian American National Council, Inc.
American Latvian Association, Inc.
Lithuanian American Council, Inc.