- Title: From wintry Lithuania, NATO sends Russia a signal of resolve
- Date: 2nd December 2016
- Summary: DETONATIONS AT EXERCISE GROUND MORE OF EXERCISE LOCATION SOLDIERS RUNNING AND SHOOTING ARMOURED VEHICLES
- Embargoed: 17th December 2016 13:50
- Keywords: NATO Lithuania Russia 'Iron Sword' Grybauskaite
- Location: TRAINING GROUND, PABRADE, LITHUANIA
- City: TRAINING GROUND, PABRADE, LITHUANIA
- Country: Lithuania
- Reuters ID: LVA0025B6YR7D
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Troops from 11 NATO countries including the United States rehearsed battle skills in a snowy Lithuanian forest on Friday (December 2), and the leader of the Baltic state voiced confidence that U.S. commitment to Europe's defence would survive the election of Donald Trump as president.
Trump upset U.S. allies during the election campaign by praising Russian President Vladimir Putin, describing NATO as 'obsolete' and questioning whether Washington should protect European allies who did not spend enough on their own defence.
But Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite played down those comments as she inspected some of the 4,000 allied troops taking part in an exercise in a pine forest near the border with Belarus, including Canadian snipers, U.S. infantry and German soldiers with missile launchers.
She said that the United States had been a guarantor of peace since the Second World War and "we expect that to remain".
In moves prompted by Russia's annexation of Crimea and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, NATO is deploying four battalions of up to 1,000 troops each from early next year to defend Poland and the former Soviet Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
The deployment was planned months before the election of Trump, who unnerved the central and east Europeans by suggesting the United States should set conditions for defending its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
Moscow says it has no intention of invading the Baltics or Poland and accuses NATO of destabilising Europe by placing U.S. missile systems in eastern Europe and moving troops closer to Russia's borders.
NATO says its response is aimed at creating a "credible deterrent", citing not only the annexation of Crimea but Russia's actions in conducting unannounced snap exercises and placing nuclear-capable missiles in its Kaliningrad region, which borders Lithuania.
A German battalion will deploy to Lithuania from February, while British, Canadian and U.S. battalions will go to Estonia, Latvia and Poland respectively. Smaller rotating contingents of U.S. troops have been deployed across the region since Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014.
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