Lithuanian Foreign Minister: US administration grateful to Baltic states for quality partnership

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at a meeting with Baltic foreign ministers that he was grateful to the countries for high-quality partnership, Lithuania's diplomacy chief Linas Linkevicius says.

"(Tillerson) thanked us for our contribution to NATO, for the high-quality partnership, if we were to cite the secretary," Linkevicius told BNS in a telephone interview from Washington D.C. on Tuesday evening.

In the past months, Europe has been locked in fears over the US new President Donald Trump's stance on NATO and Russia. The new US administration has particularly called upon the Alliance's members to raise their defense spending, as merely five of NATO's 28 members are currently earmarking the agreed 2 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to defense.

Estonia is the only Baltic nation to spend 2 percent of the GDP for defense purposes, with Lithuania and Latvia pledging to reach the level next year.

"It was me who started the conversation about the security topics and defense spending. We mentioned that we understood the need to spend more money on defense and said that all Europeans should do this, and that the Baltic states held a very clear position on the matter," said Linkevicius.

He stated the new US administration wanted to make NATO stronger, which requires the United States' further leadership over the Alliance.

"We think that US leadership in NATO is very important, especially with the units deployed in the Baltic states. Tillerson restated the US continued commitment and his understanding the importance of the presence of the US troops in our countries," the Lithuanian minister said.

US troops have been rotated in each of the Baltic states since 2014. The three nations have lately asked for US troops to be stationed on permanent, not rotational basis.

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