With relations between the West and Moscow at a post-Cold War low point, Russia’s closest EU neighbors are turning to tougher military and financial measures to send a message to Vladimir Putin.
At a White House meeting last week, the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania asked Donald Trump to do more to deter Russia by bolstering U.S. forces in Eastern Europe.
Trump didn’t give a clear answer. He praised the Baltic countries’ robust defense spending in recent years and said that “nobody has been tougher on Russia” than his administration. But, as he has done repeatedly despite opposition in Congress and among his own advisers, he also professed a desire for better relations with the Kremlin.
“Getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,” Trump said. “Now, maybe we will [get along] and maybe we won’t.”
The Baltic countries and their Nordic neighbors — particularly Sweden, Denmark and Finland — are increasingly betting on the latter scenario.
The poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the U.K. last month — for which Britain, the EU, the U.S. and others have placed the blame squarely on Moscow — has put Russia right back at the top of the foreign policy agenda for major Western powers. But that’s a position it has already occupied for years among the Nordic and Baltic countries on Russia’s periphery.
Those countries would be on the front line of any military conflict with Moscow and have grown more and more anxious about the Kremlin’s actions in the region. [Continue reading…]
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