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.

Don’t Delude Yourself: The Ukraine Crisis Is Far From Over

MONDAY, JUNE 16, 2014

Posted by: JUDY DEMPSEY.  Dempsey is a nonresident senior associate at Carnegie Europe and editor in chief of Strategic Europe. 

Ukraine is deteriorating, and quickly. The brief honeymoon that followed Petro Poroshenko’s inauguration as president is over. It is time for the West to step up its actions.

The past few days have seen a dangerous escalation of the crisis. On June 14, pro-Russian fighters shot down a Ukrainian military transport jet as it was trying to land at Luhansk airport in Eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian prosecutor’s office said all 49 people on board—40 paratroopers and nine crew members—had died.

NATO provided satellite imagery showing Russian tanks and heavy artillery crossing the border into Ukraine. The deliveries, shown in three sets of images dated May 30, June 6, and June 11, also included rocket launchers, according to the U.S. State Department.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and François Hollande, the French president, spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 14 asking him to control better Russia’s borders with Ukraine. But so far, every one of Merkel’s attempts to persuade Putin to stop Russia’s support for militia groups in Eastern Ukraine has failed.

Russia continues to deny it is arming rebels in the East of Ukraine. Instead, Putin has called on the Ukrainian government to stop its military operations. Yet Kiev is simply attempting to regain control of its territory while also trying to establish some dialogue with Moscow to end the crisis.

In this situation, doing nothing is not an option for Europe or America. The longer European governments hesitate, the more Ukraine is threatened by civil war. Its citizens will flee the conflict, and the growing humanitarian crisis in the East of the country will increase.

There may also be spillover into other parts of Eastern Europe. Just consider the political instability in Moldova and Russia’s meddling in Transnistria, not to speak of the lingering conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

European leaders cannot afford to believe that the Ukraine crisis will just fade away. It won’t. Nor will they be able to contain it unless they act. Given Russia’s continued meddling, Merkel needs to push the EU to impose a third round of sanctions.

It is true that the first two rounds of sanctions have had only an indirect impact on the Russian economy, while Putin’s popularity continues at an all-time high. But that should not deter the EU and the United States from pressing ahead with targeted sanctions that would include a visa ban for Putin’s inner circle combined with the freezing of their assets and a comprehensive ban on arms exports.

NATO can’t stand idly by, either. The measures U.S. President Barack Obama announced in Warsaw on June 5 go some way toward reassuring NATO’s Eastern allies. Yes, it is important that NATO conducts training and sends troops on a rotational basis to Poland, the Baltic states, and Romania. But is that really enough to deter Russia? Poland and Estonia both want permanent NATO bases on their territories. Such a presence could have an immense psychological impact for the region—and for Russia.

There are other tough decisions that NATO will have to make at its summit in South Wales in September. Georgia wants to be granted a NATO Membership Action Plan, a program of advice and practical support that would set the country on an unambiguous path toward membership.

Several European countries oppose giving the Membership Action Plan to Georgia, not only because they argue it would provoke Russia but also because they doubt that NATO would be prepared to defend Georgia in case of an armed conflict. So what takes precedence: meeting NATO’s criteria, or pandering to Russia?

NATO and the EU also have to decide how to deal with Moldova. Together with Georgia, Moldova wants to sign a political and economic association agreement with the EU. Russia is keen to stop that from happening. The reason isn’t just that Chişinău, despite all its systemic weaknesses, and Tbilisi would move economically closer to Europe. The impact these accords would have on strengthening civil society and democratic values cannot be underestimated, as the Kremlin now understands, and fears.

That is why the Kremlin has also embarked on an anti-EU and anti-NATO campaign further afield, in Montenegro, a small Western Balkan country that wants to join both Western organizations. Despite a pervasive culture of corruption, Prime Minister Milo Đukanović is hoping that Montenegro will become the 29th member of NATO at the alliance’s September summit.

Don’t bet on it. Montenegro is vulnerable to pressure from Moscow. Russians own about 40 percent of the republic’s Adriatic coast. Up to 7,000 permanent Russian residents have taken advantage of the country’s lax rule of law, while Russian businesses have heavily invested in the republic, not always to Montenegro’s advantage.

It is precisely to break this Russian stranglehold that part of the Montenegrin political class now wants to wed the country to the Euro-Atlantic organizations. But analysts in the region say that Russian propaganda in the Western Balkans has been stepped up over the past year to prevent that from happening.

In this situation, Western governments need to understand that their neighborhood is being drawn into Moscow’s power games and the Ukraine crisis. That is why further sanctions against Putin, the establishment of permanent bases in Eastern European NATO countries, and unstinting support for civil society and democratic institutions throughout Eastern Europe is crucial. The competition about values has only begun.


G-7 Leaders Statement on Ukraine - 4/26/14

Office of the Press Secretary
April 26, 2014
We, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission, join in expressing our deep concern at the continued efforts by separatists backed by Russia to destabilize eastern Ukraine and our commitment to taking further steps to ensure a peaceful and stable environment for the May 25 presidential election.

We welcomed the positive steps taken by Ukraine to meet its commitments under the Geneva accord of April 17 by Ukraine, Russia, the European Union, and the United States. These actions include working towards constitutional reform and decentralization, proposing an amnesty law for those who will peacefully leave the buildings they have seized in eastern Ukraine, and supporting the work of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  We also note that the Government of Ukraine has acted with restraint in dealing with the armed bands illegally occupying government buildings and forming illegal checkpoints.

In contrast, Russia has taken no concrete actions in support of the Geneva accord.  It has not publicly supported the accord, nor condemned the acts of pro-separatists seeking to destabilize Ukraine, nor called on armed militants to leave peacefully the government buildings they've occupied and put down their arms.  Instead, it has continued to escalate tensions by increasingly concerning rhetoric and ongoing threatening military maneuvers on Ukraine's border.

We reiterate our strong condemnation of Russia's illegal attempt to annex Crimea and Sevastopol, which we do not recognize.  We will now follow through on the full legal and practical consequences of this illegal annexation, including but not limited to the economic, trade and financial areas.
We have now agreed that we will move swiftly to impose additional sanctions on Russia.  Given the urgency of securing the opportunity for a successful and peaceful democratic vote next month in Ukraine's presidential elections, we have committed to act urgently to intensify targeted sanctions and measures to increase the costs of Russia's actions. 

Russia's actions in Ukraine and the response from the international community already have imposed significant costs on its economy.  While we continue to prepare to move to broader, coordinated sanctions, including sectoral measures should circumstances warrant, as we committed to in The Hague on March 24, we underscore that the door remains open to a diplomatic resolution of this crisis, on the basis of the Geneva accord.  We urge Russia to join us in committing to that path.