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US Congress approves $228 million in military aid for Baltic countries

by Martin Fornusek March 23, 2024 11:19 PM 2 min read
Lithuanian and U.S. troops participate in the Iron Sword multinational military exercises on November 24, 2016 near Pabrade, Lithuania. (Photo credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
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The U.S. Congress passed on March 22 a bill that allocates $228 million in military aid for Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia, the Estonian Defense Ministry announced a day later.

The three Baltic countries are Washington's NATO allies bordering Russia. Tensions between Moscow and the alliance have been mounting since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

"Support from the U.S. has significantly helped Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania fast-track several military infrastructure and capability development projects," Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said in a statement.

"The good news is that the support is slightly higher than last year. This sends a clear signal that the U.S., the largest ally in NATO, is committed to the security and stability of our region."

Since 2020, the U.S. Defense Department has been developing military capability and interoperability of the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian militaries through the Baltic Security Initiative (BSI).

Washington allocated $225 million to the initiative in 2023 and $169 million a year before that. The focus of the funding is on developing air defense, maritime situational awareness, and land forces.

The Baltic countries have been among the staunchest supporters of Ukraine against Russian aggression, devoting the largest GDP shares to aiding Kyiv of all the partners.

Officials of the three countries have also been vocal about the possibility of a future open conflict between NATO and Russia. Given the nations' close proximity to Russia and its ally Belarus, they would highly likely be at the forefront of the potential clash.

A Lithuanian intelligence report from earlier this month says that even as Moscow keeps allocating huge resources to war against Ukraine, it also keeps preparing for a long-term confrontation with NATO, including in the Baltic Sea region.

ISW: Economic, military indicators suggest Russia is preparing for large-scale war with NATO
Although not an imminent threat, the ISW assesses that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s emphasis on growing Russia’s economic and military capabilities is an indication that Russia is gearing up for conflict beyond “a protracted war in Ukraine.”
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