April 26 - The U.S. is conducting military exercises in Lithuania with the country's troops in a move aimed at reassuring the Baltics and Poland in the wake of the Ukraine crisis. Vanessa Johnston reports.
U.S. soldiers arrive in Lithuania for military exercises Saturday. Washington wants to reassure its eastern European allies that NATO will protect them, should they face Russian aggression as in Ukraine. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite (dal-LEH GREE-bohsk-eye-teh) welcomed the troops at the airbase. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT, DALIA GRYBAUSKAITE, SAYING: "Today we know, that our freedom and security are a matter of utmost significance to our allies." U.S. Major General Richard Longo reiterated NATO's commitment to Lithuania's security. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. MAJOR GENERAL, RICHARD LONG, SAYING: "With our persistent presence of training soldiers. Let me make this clear: should Lithuania need NATO, I guarantee, NATO will be there." A total of 600 U.S. troops will be deployed to Poland and the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for infantry exercises. They are expected to remain in the region on rotation until the end of the year. (SOUNDBITE) (Lithuanian) LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT, DALIA GRYBAUSKAITE, SAYING: "Any intervention in Lithuania will mean a violation against NATO territory. If just one of our guests is harmed, this will mean open confrontation not with Lithuania but with the United States." The Baltic states -- with their own Russian-speaking minorities -- have been increasingly worried about Moscow after its annexation of Crimea, partly on ethnic grounds.