By Mimi Nguyen Ly
Baltic nations Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are sending U.S.-made weapons to Ukraine to boost military support amid a threat of a Russian invasion.
It comes as Russia has sent an estimated 100,000 troops with tanks and other heavy weapons to its borders with Ukraine’s northeast, but denies it is planning an attack.
The defense ministers of the three nations in the statement confirmed they have received approval from the United States to send the weapons, which include Javelin anti-armor missiles from Estonia, and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and adjacent equipment from Lithuana and Latvia.
“In light of Russia’s increase in military pressure in and around Ukraine, the Baltic States have decided to answer Ukrainian needs and to provide additional defence related assistance. This aid will further enhance Ukraine’s capability to defend its territory and population in case of a possible Russian aggression,” the defence ministers of the three nations said in a joint statement.
“Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania and their Allies are working together expeditiously to hand over the security assistance to Ukraine. We sincerely hope that Ukraine will face no need to use this equipment and call on Russian Federation to seize its aggressive and irresponsible behavior,” they added.
“The Baltic states will send ‘Stinger’ and ‘Javelin’ systems, as well as various individual equipment to help Ukraine to strengthen its defences,” Minister for Defence and Deputy Prime Minister of Latvia, Artis Pabriks, said on Twitter. “I strongly urge Russia to de-escalate situation at the border with Ukraine and respect its sovereignty.”
Under export control regulations, countries must obtain approval from the State Department before transferring any weapons they received from the United States to third parties.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson confirmed the approval to allow Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Britain to provide U.S.-made equipment from their inventories to Ukraine, but gave no details on which weapons would be sent.
“The United States and its allies and partners are standing together to expedite security assistance to Ukraine. We are in close touch with our Ukrainian partners and our NATO Allies and are creatively utilizing all available security cooperation tools to help Ukraine bolster its defenses in the face of growing Russian aggression,” the spokesperson said.
Russian troops seized and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Shortly after, Russia began supporting separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine; the ongoing war has killed over 13,000 people since April 2014.
Russia’s recent amassing of troops and weapons near Ukraine’s borders is believed by the West to be preparation for a war to prevent Ukraine from joining the NATO Western security alliance.
Russian officials recently demanded written guarantees that NATO will give up any military activity in Eastern Europe and Ukraine, but member countries have refused to make such promises.
Several NATO member countries have, in recent days and weeks, signaled support in defense of Ukraine. It comes as Russian troops began arriving in Belarus on Jan. 18 for military drills near the Ukraine border, scheduled for February.
The U.S. intelligence findings, which were declassified and shared with U.S. allies before being made public, estimate that a military invasion could begin between mid-January and mid-February.
The new U.S. intelligence was unveiled after a series of talks between Russia and the United States and its Western allies this week in Europe aimed at heading off the escalating crisis made little progress.
The United States has sent the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier strike group to participate in a naval exercise in the Mediterranean Sea, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby announced Friday.
Kirby told reporters that the 12-day maritime exercise “Neptune Strike ’22” will “demonstrate NATO’s ability to integrate the high-end maritime strike capabilities of an aircraft carrier strike group to support the deterrence and defense of the alliance.”
Although he said the drills are not in response to the recent Russian military buildup and has been “long-planned” since 2020, the naval exercise was not listed on NATO’s website alongside other exercises for the year. Kirby noted, however, that the recent tensions at the Russia-Ukraine border were considered when deciding whether to press on with the exercise.
On Jan. 19, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a possible plan to deploy its troops to Romania as part of NATO operations. The following day, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis welcomed Macron’s announcement.
“I warmly welcome President Emmanuel Macron’s announcement on France’s readiness to participate in NATO’s forward military presence in Romania,” Iohannis wrote on Twitter. “The Romania-France strategic partnership will thus be reinforced on the Eastern flank, in the Black Sea region.”
Denmark announced Jan. 18 it will send four F-16 fighter jets to Lithuania to police the airspace above the Baltic nations, as well as a frigate with 160 soldiers in the Baltic Sea.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has sent 2,000 anti-tank missile launchers in the airlifts to Ukraine, alongside 30 elite troops to provide training.
Spain announced on Jan. 20 it has sent warships to bolster NATO’s naval forces in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles said the government is also considering sending fighter jets to Bulgaria.
Separately, Germany has refused to issue permits to allow Estonia to export German-origin military weapons to Ukraine, reported the Wall Street Journal on Friday. German officials attribute the blockage to a longstanding policy over arms exports to tense regions, according to the outlet.
Reuters contributed to this report.