Baltic nations in Nato troops plea
The three Baltic countries are asking Nato to permanently deploy an army brigade to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as a deterrent against an increasingly assertive Russia.
The chiefs of defence of the three countries are presenting the request in a joint letter this week to Nato's supreme allied commander in Europe, said Captain Mindaugas Neimontas, spokesman for Lithuania's chief of defence.
"It is necessary because of the security situation," Mr Neimontas said. "It's not getting better in our region, so it will be a deterrent."
The Baltic countries - former Soviet republics that regained independence amid the collapse of the Iron Curtain two decades ago - have been alarmed by Moscow's intervention in Ukraine and the increasing activity of Russian forces exercising in the Baltic Sea region.
Nato forces, including from the US, have also stepped up their exercises in the Baltics and other Eastern European nations in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.
But Mr Neimontas said the Baltic countries are asking for a permanent presence of a brigade-sized unit, with one battalion of 700-800 troops in each country.
The troops would be stationed in the region on a rotational basis, similar to Nato's air policing mission, in which the air forces of Nato countries take turns patrolling Baltic airspace.
Vladimir Chizhov, Russia's ambassador to the European Union, said the request of the Baltic states was motivated by "local politics rather than a genuine security situation".
"Because nobody is threatening the Baltics - at least, nobody that I know of," he said.
Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said the request would be "assessed carefully", but gave no commitment beyond that.
Speaking to reporters at a meeting of Nato foreign ministers in Antalya, Turkey, Mr Stoltenberg underlined that the alliance has already increased its military presence in the Baltic region and is in the process of establishing quick response forces that will make it easier to reinforce the Baltic states if needed.
"The main message is that Nato is ready. And Nato is prepared. And we will defend all allies against any threat," Mr Stoltenberg said.