US may send Patriot missile to Lithuania amid Moscow threat

Two US defence officials earlier said the United States was considering sending a Patriot missile battery to the Baltic region for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation air defence exercises this summer, though they stressed the move would only be temporary.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis is seeking to ignite a military "showdown" with Russia, American analyst Wayne Madsen says, citing the Pentagon chief's latest remarks against Moscow.

"We will work very closely with Turkey in support of their security on their southern border", Mattis said at a news conference in Lithuania.

Mattis said he had "no concerns" about the upcoming Zapad exercise, adding that's it routine and he hopes "it stays routine".

Additionally, NATO has placed four multinational battalions led by the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, second from left, speaks with Lithuania's Minister of Defense Raimundas Karoblis during a meeting at the presidential palace in Vilnius, Lithuania, Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

Madsen, a Washington-based author and investigative journalist, said Mattis was not the kind of defense secretary US President Donald Trump had promised American people before being elected president. It said the deployment was part of routine drills, but USA officials worry that it may represent a permanent upgrade to Kaliningrad's missile capability.

If the move is finalized, it would be temporary - but signal staunch USA backing for Baltic nations that are anxious about the threat from Russian Federation.

He further noted that newer capabilities are not offensive. That would likely happen before the Russian drills began, they said.

"The specific systems that we bring are those that we determine necessary".

Asked about a potential Patriot deployment, Grybauskaite would only say that "we need all necessary means for defense and for deterrence, and that's what we will decide together".

But at the same time, United States officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, raised the possibility that a Patriot missile battery could be deployed briefly to the Baltic region during North Atlantic Treaty Organisation exercises in July that focus on air defence, known as Tobruk Legacy. The drills, named Tobruk Legacy, focus on air defense.

"They also realize the fact that that the Patriot batteries are related to the missile defense system and that Russia's possible retaliation will be severe".

"We will deploy only defensive systems to make certain that sovereignty is respected". The officials stressed the Patriots, if deployed, would be withdrawn when the drills were concluded.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, insisted that the missiles would likely be withdrawn when massive military exercises by Russian Federation and Belarus kick off in September.

As many as 100,000 Russian troops are expected to take part.

"The Americans can not say "no" to the Baltic leaders, for they see them as allies, but at the same time they do not want to deploy the Patriot missiles on a permanent basis because they understand perfectly well that it will irritate Russia", Konovalov added.

Last year, Russian Federation deployed nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles to the country's westernmost region of Kaliningrad, near its border with the Baltic countries and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member states.

He also visited Pabrade Training Area, there meeting with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation battle group, which he called a stabilizing force in the region. He walked along displays of tanks and soldiers, asking commanders about how well the forces are getting along together and with their allies.

Rotational U.S. forces have been present on Lithuanian soil since early 2014 attending joint military trainings in the country.

He recalled that despite the small military budgets of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, these three Baltic countries spent about one and a half billion dollars on military expenditures in 2016 - a figure that will increase to two billion dollars by 2020.

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  • Leroy Wright