April 29 - U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel welcomed Estonian Defense Minister Sven Mikser to the Pentagon as the Obama administration seeks to underscore its support for the Baltic nations in wake of Russia's aggression in Crimea. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION STORY: U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel welcomed Estonian Defence Minister Sven Mikser to the Pentagon on Tuesday (April 29), as the Obama administration seeks to underscore its support for the Baltic nations in wake of Russia's aggression in Crimea. Mikser recently expressed his view that Estonia expects to see more NATO troops on its territory in reaction to what it fears will be Russian attempts to destabilize the former Soviet republic. Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, each with their own Russian-speaking minorities, have been increasingly worried that Russia's annexation of Crimea could herald destabilization by Moscow in their own region. The latest deployment of U.S. troops arrived in the Baltics with four British fighter jets on Monday as NATO steps up efforts to reassure its allies in the face of Russian tensions with the West over Ukraine. A total of 600 U.S. troops are to 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. Four British Royal Air Force Typhoon fighter jets landed in Siauliai airbase in northern Lithuania, the first of 12 fighters that will boost air patrols in the Baltics, and 150 U.S. troops were deployed to the Amari air base in Estonia. The three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have small military forces and have been warily watching Russia reasserting itself in its former dominions. Additional to the U.S. paratroopers, from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team based in Italy, NATO has said it will triple its usual number of fighter jets patrolling over the Baltics next month to enhance its eastern European defences. The Baltic states have been members of NATO since 2004, but foreign troops have not had a permanent presence before, partly to avoid antagonizing Russia.