Estonia’s prime minister told Reuters Wednesday that the Baltic states are in talks with NATO allies to increase the military alliance’s troop presence on their soil, a move that would increase tensions with Russia.
“Of course, we are discussing with our allies to increase their presence here to act as a deterrent,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said. “If you look at the map, the Baltic states are a NATO peninsula and therefore we have our worries.”
Kallas’ comments came the same day Russia and NATO held talks in Brussels over Ukraine and other issues.
Amid tensions surrounding Ukraine, Moscow is seeking guarantees that NATO won’t expand further eastward, but the US and NATO have flatly rejected the demand.
Since Estonia and Latvia bother border Russia, Moscow would not be happy if more NATO troops were deployed to either country. US and NATO troops deploy to the region on a rotational basis, and Latvia is looking to establish a permanent US military presence.
A NATO diplomat told Reuters that the possibility of sending more troops to the Baltics could be discussed by NATO defense ministers during a planned meeting in February.
No progress was made during Wednesday’s meeting between NATO and Russia, although the door is open for more talks in the future. After the meeting, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance could send more troops to countries near Russia if Moscow invades Ukraine. For their part, Russia insists it has no plans to invade.