News / Europe

US Reassures Baltics Against Russian Threat

  • At Estonia’s Amari Airbase, a Danish F-16 fighter jet takes off from a newly renovated NATO standard base. Waiting to take off is a Soviet era AN-2 biplane, one of two fixed wing aircraft in Estonia’s fledgling air force. (Vera Undritz/VOA)
  • A Danish F-16 in a new hangar at Amari. Four Danish F-16s are training out of Amari, part of a program that has cycled American and British pilots and planes through Estonia’s main air base. (Vera Undritz/VOA)
  • Lt. Col. Rauno Sirk, commander of Estonia’s Amari Airbase, welcomes NATO pilots to the base, which has gone through $100 million in construction, since Russian troops left in 1994. (Vera Undritz/VOA)
  • At Almari, barracks in rented containers hosted American troops in May. They are kept ready for new NATO troops that will arrive later this year. (Vera Undritz/VOA)
  • A container barrack for women at Almari. (Vera Undritz/VOA)
  • Symbolizing the millenial military confrontation between East and West in Estonia, a Swedish-built fortress stares across the Narva River at a Russian-built fortress in Ivangorod, Russia. (Vera Undritz)
  • Brian J. Diebold, commander of the US Navy destroyer, USS Oscar Austin, at the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia. (Vera Undritz/VOA)
  • U.S. Marines present the colors at the Fourth of July party in a tent on the lawn of the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Tallinn, Estonia. (Vera Undritz/VOA)
  • Lt. Col. Kyle A Reed, leader of a company of U.S. Airborne troops, was one of dozens of uniformed American soldiers mingling with Estonians at a Fourth of July party in Tallinn. (Vera Undritz/VOA)
  • At Tallinn’s new Seaplane Harbor Maritime Museum, Estonia teaches a new generation of Estonians about their 20th century history of defense. (Vera Undritz/VOA)
  • At the Maritime Museum, Estonia’s flag flies off the bow of the freshly restored icebreaker Suur Tõll. During its century in existence, this German-made boat has passed through the hands of Czars, Soviets, and Estonian nationalists. (Vera Undritz/VOA)
James Brooke

At a new NATO-standard airbase in Estonia, four F-16s train over the Baltic Sea, sometimes coming within 100 meters of Russian war jets that tail them.

The new $100 million base flies flags of the countries of NATO pilots who have trained here recently: Poland, Estonia, Britain, Denmark and the United States.

The training helps ease concerns here in the Baltics, unnerved by Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March and its arming of separatists in eastern Ukraine. The three Baltic nations – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – were ruled by Moscow for nearly half a century, only winning their independence in 1991.

At an early celebration of America’s Independence Day, in Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, U.S. Ambassador Jeff Levine talked to a crowd about America’s, and NATO’s, commitment to defend this small country:

“The United States, both as a friend and as an ally in NATO, is committed to Estonia’s security,” Levine said. “In the last four months, we have had boots on the ground, planes in the air and ships at sea.”

Mingling in the crowd of almost 1,000 Estonians were uniformed soldiers from an American airborne regiment and sailors from the USS Oscar Austin, an American destroyer anchored near Tallinn.

Brian Diebold, commander of the Navy ship, described the NATO naval exercises recently completed off Estonia.  “It can be characterized as 28 ships, 14 nations -- and one team finished,” he said.

Almost half of NATO’s 28 member countries sent ships, he said: “Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, there was Lithuania, Latvia, France, Demark, Germany, the UK, the U.S.  I can’t even remember all 14 of them.”

In honor of traditional July 4 festivities, an Estonian choir sang the American anthem.

Estonia’s gratitude to the U.S. and NATO has grown in direct proportion to its fears about Moscow, most recently following Russia’s March annexation of Crimea and its ongoing support for pro-Russian secessionists in eastern Ukraine.

At Estonia’s Defense Ministry, Mikk Marran, the permanent secretary, said the three Baltic nations have watched in alarm as Russia has rearmed in recent years. He said much of Russia’s military modernization has been concentrated near the Baltics.

“The conflict in Ukraine showed us pretty clearly that Russia is willing, and Russia is able to move the forces pretty quickly,” Marran said.

The three Baltic nations are members of NATO, and all are banking on that mutual defense treaty to protect themselves against Russian aggression. Marran praised the NATO training maneuvers here as sending a clear message of deterrence to Moscow.

“We have to send constant messages to the potential adversary that they should not even think about doing something similar to Crimea or the eastern part of Ukraine, in Estonia,” he said.

For now, Estonia’s defense strategy centers on holding off Russia long enough for the big firepower to arrive from NATO. In coming weeks, the Estonians are placing a large order of American anti-tank weapons.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Activists for Peace Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified boarder, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Ben
July 03, 2014 2:02 PM
Same as it reassured Ukraine for its nuclear disarmament? Is that why the U.S. is so reluctant now sending Ukrainian troops mere night vision goggles? All these so called reassurances are worth nothing. That's the lesson Ukrainians have learned.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs