US military aid to Baltic nations for 2020 hits $175M, Estonia says

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U.S. military aid to the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — three NATO members that border Russia — will climb to $175 million for 2020, Estonia’s defense ministry said Monday.

An allocation of $125 million for the three former Soviet republics comes as Russia has increased its attention on Eastern Europe and sought to develop closer ties with European nations including Germany, a partner in the development of a major natural gas pipeline.

A separate $50 million from the U.S. will be used to create a fund to boost air defense capabilities across the region. The provision, the first of its kind for the Baltic nations, was included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that President Trump signed into law last week.

“Our Ally clearly confirms its commitment to collective defense on Europe’s eastern flank,” Jüri Luik, Estonia’s minister of defense, said in a statement.

“The transition from air policing to air defense requires a common decision from all Allies, but the U.S. position and practical support are of great importance. We greatly appreciate the U.S. support for the development of our region’s defense,” Luik added.

The U.S. has warned European nations against forging closer ties with Russia and China, two countries which the Trump administration and previous U.S. presidents have accused of a host of malicious activity.

Russian forces are said to be continuing support for Ukrainian separatists as part of a conflict that began in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea. Withheld U.S. aid to Ukraine earlier this year prompted the House impeachment inquiry into Trump.

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