US earmarks $180M for military assistance to Baltic NATO members
The U.S. approved $180 million in security assistance to the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania under the $1.5 trillion government funding bill President Biden signed on Tuesday, Estonia’s Ministry of Defense said.
The bolstered aid represents $11 million more than the $169 million the U.S. committed under the initiative last year and comes as Washington seeks to bolster its NATO allies amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a statement, Estonian Defense Minister Kalle Laanet said that Washington has “taken a clear initiative in the current security crisis by supporting its NATO Eastern Allies, Ukraine, and bringing Russia to the attention of the international community.”
“The decision of the Congress shows that the United States is committed to the protection of our region and clearly understands that the defense of their own country also begins in the Baltic States,” Laanet said.
The government funding bill, which appropriates funds through September, includes $13.6 billion in humanitarian and security assistance to help Ukraine amid Moscow’s invasion.
Washington has sought to assure its NATO allies of its commitment to defending the eastern parts of the alliance, having deployed and repositioned thousands of troops to eastern Europe.
In January, the U.S. allowed Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia to send American-made weapons to Ukraine as tensions grew.
Estonia’s defense ministry touted the increased presence of U.S. forces in the region, which in addition to ground troops included sending F-35 fighter jets, AH-64 attack helicopters and Patriot air defense systems.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the three Baltic countries last week as part of a weeklong trip visiting NATO allies in Europe. During the trip, he indicated that Washington was mulling more permanent troop deployments in the Baltic region.