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The US will send troops and jets to the Baltics.

The US president, Joe Biden, said on 22 February that he had authorised additional movement of US forces and equipment already stationed in Europe to support America’s Baltic allies Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania against potential Russian threats; the enforcement includes lethal F-35 strike fighters and AH-64 Apache helicopters.

“Let me be clear: these are totally defensive moves on our part; we have no intention of fighting Russia,” Biden said at a press briefing, following Russia’s escalating aggression against Ukraine. “We want to send an unmistakable message, though, that the United States, together with our allies, will defend every inch of NATO territory and abide by the commitments we made to NATO.”

After speaking with Vladimir Putin on 12 February, Joe Biden, the US president, was greeted by him. Photo by White House

The Estonian defence minister, Kalle Laanet, confirmed Biden’s statement, saying the US was going to provide additional support to strengthen Estonia’s air defences. Laanet told Delfi that this would mean there will be additional US fighter jets stationed at the Ämari Air Base in Estonia.

Eight F-35 fighters, and 20 AH-64 Apache helicopters

Later, the US Defense Department announced that 800 soldiers from an Italy based infantry battalion taskforce will be deployed to the Baltic States. However, it did not specify which country. Also, up to eight Air Force F-35 strike fighters from Germany will be sent to the Baltics, as well as an unspecified location on NATO’s southeastern flank.

An attack aviation battalion will be sent with 20 AH64 Apache helicopters from Germany to Baltics. A task force with 12 Apaches from Greece to Poland will also be mobilised.

An F-35 of the United States Air Force at Estonia’s Ämari Air Base in 2017. Photo by Estonian Defence Forces.

In January, the US enforced the Baltic Air Policing Mission with six American F-15s, based at Ämari Air Base – in addition to the four Belgian Air Force’s F-16s already stationed there.

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania don’t have an airborne air defense capability. Therefore, the protection is provided by NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission whereby more powerful allies deploy their jets to Baltic states in intervals usually lasting half a year.

The UK announced in February that it would send 850 more troops to Estonia. These troops will be added to the 1,200-strong British-led NATO combat group already stationed in Estonia.

See also: Live updates: Russia-Ukraine war – reactions from Estonia.



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