After moving to annex Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin insists he has no intention of invading other regions in Ukraine, much less other nations.
But leaders in Russia’s backyard aren’t so sure, and they’re looking to Vice President Joe Biden for assurances that the U.S. has a plan to prevent that from happening.
Biden was to meet in this Baltic capital on Wednesday with the leaders of Lithuania and Latvia, two small countries that, like Ukraine, share their eastern border with Russia.
Almost 10 years to the day after Lithuania and Latvia joined NATO, the Baltics are suddenly plunged into the type of eerie concern about foreign aggression they may have thought they’d left behind at the end of the Cold War.
A day after promising more sanctions and regional military exercises to send a stern signal to Putin, Biden was to make the case that the U.S. stands ready to defend nations like Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia whose NATO membership entitles them to a defensive response from the U.S. and others.
The three Baltic nations were once part of the former Soviet Union and have a sizable ethnic Russian minority population. “Have no doubt: The United States will honour its commitment. We always do,” Biden said on Tuesday in Warsaw, Poland, which shares a border with both Russia and Ukraine.
Still, the entire region is reeling from Moscow’s move to absorb Crimea into its orbit. Tough talk, sanctions and travel bans have not been enough so far to dissuade Putin and his military from seizing control of Crimea and then, after a Crimean referendum that the West has condemned as illegal, declaring it part of Russia. Other countries watching warily are concerned they could be next.
“The punishment doesn’t fit the crime, and the Baltic states and central European states know this,” said Michael Geary, a European relations analyst at the Wilson Center, a Washington think tank.
“They’re worried that the U.S. response has been mediocre at best, and there’s a palpable sense they need reassurance. Will they be protected in the event of further westward march by Russia?”
Yes, they will, Biden will seek to assure Lithuanian President continued…