The United States has assured the three Baltic countries bordering Russia that they can rely on NATO protection in case of a military attack.
U.S. Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke Wednesday during a visit to the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.
He said he understands concerns about Russian military policy toward the Baltic states and Ukraine after Russia's military incursion into Georgia in August. But he said NATO's commitments and obligations to defend its members are clear.
The admiral also said he discussed those NATO obligations Tuesday during talks in Helsinki with top Russian General Nikolai Makarov. Those talks were the first between U.S and Russian military chiefs since Russian forces invaded Georgia August seventh.
The two men agreed to resume needed military discussions by telephone, and in person when necessary.
Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia formally regained independence in 1991 after nearly five decades of Soviet rule. The three countries joined NATO in 2004. Ukraine is currently seeking to gain eventual entry into the alliance.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.