Pence reassures NATO allies in Estonia over Russian threat

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence | Gage Skidmore

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to the security of the Baltic states against any possible aggression from Russia.

Pence, who arrived in Estonia earlier this week, said the United States was behind its NATO allies and labelled Russia their “biggest security threat”.

The vice president’s visit aims to reassure Baltic NATO members that are worried about Russia’s military activity in the region. The visit came after Moscow ordered 755 staff at U.S. diplomatic missions in Russia to leave.

Since 1991, Moscow and Tallinn have strained ties after Estonia broke free from the Soviet Union and later in 2004 joined both the European Union and NATO.

Estonia and other Baltic states including Latvia and Lithuania have been frightened in recent months by Russia’s frequent military exercises near the region as well as the rejoining of Crimea to Russia after it separated from Ukraine.

Speaking in Estonia, Pence stressed that Washington was behind its NATO allies and labelled Russia their biggest security threat.

“At the heart of our alliance is a solemn promise that an attack on one is an attack on all,” he said. “The President has made clear, and as my presence here today demonstrates, America first does not mean America alone.”

Members of the U.S., French, British and Estonian militaries as well as the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were present to hear Pence’s speech.

“A strong and united NATO is more necessary today than at any point since the collapse of communism a quarter-century ago,” Pence noted.