July 31, 2017
Courtesy of BBC News

US Vice-President Mike Pence has reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to the security of the Baltic states if they face any aggression from Russia.

Speaking in Estonia, he called Russia their biggest security threat, telling the Nato allies: “An attack on one of us is an attack on us all.”

The remarks come amid growing tensions as Russia orders a cut in US diplomatic staff numbers.

The move was in retaliation for new US sanctions against Russia.

The Baltic states – Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia – all achieved independence as a result of the break-up of the Soviet Union.

They have grown increasingly wary of Russia since it annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014, and count on Nato allies coming to their aid in the event of any Russian action.

There had been doubts about President Trump’s commitment to the key Nato principle of mutual defence, after he did not mention it during a visit to Nato’s Brussels headquarters in May and instead lambasted fellow members for not spending enough on defence.

But he re-committed the US to it during a Washington press conference in June, and more symbolically at a speech in Poland in early July.

After meeting the presidents of all three Baltic states, Mr Pence said that the message of President Donald Trump to them was: “We are with you.”

“Under President Donald Trump, the United States stands firmly behind our Article 5 pledge of mutual defence,” he said at a news conference in the Estonian capital, Tallinn.

“A strong and united Nato is more necessary today than at any point since the collapse of communism a quarter-century ago,” he said.

“And no threat looms larger in the Baltic states than the spectre of aggression from your unpredictable neighbour to the east.”

Russia is preparing to hold large-scale military exercises with its ally Belarus in the next month.