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Iran Press TV

McCain assures Baltics concerned about Trump's policy

Iran Press TV

Tue Dec 27, 2016 1:21PM

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham are touring the Baltic region in a visit seen as an attempt to alleviate concerns about President-elect Donald Trump's policy toward Russia.

"I think the presence of the American troops here in Estonia is a signal that we believe in what Ronald Reagan believed, and that is peace through strength," McCain told reporters in the Estonian capital on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

"And the best way to prevent Russian misbehavior [is] by having a credible, strong military and a strong NATO alliance," the Arizona Republican said.

During his bombastic presidential campaign, Trump said he would "certainly look at" pulling the US out of NATO, because it is an "obsolete" alliance that "is costing us a fortune."

The billionaire businessman also suggested that he would consider a country's contributions to NATO before coming to its assistance.

The president-elect's view of the world's most durable security alliance unnerved many in Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia -- all NATO members.

The US deployed about 150 troops in each of the three Baltic countries and Poland in April 2014 in the face of what officials call "Russian aggression."

McCain said he did not expect the US to remove sanctions against Moscow, imposed after the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea reunited with the Russian Federation following a referendum in March 2014.

"That is certainly not the case today as I know it", he said.

Many US lawmakers are concerned that Trump might establish warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has signaled willingness to mend ties with Washington under Trump.

McCain tried to reassure the Baltics that regardless of who was its president, the US would have "a strong and significant response" as long as Putin continued to "threaten other nations in the region."

The Baltic countries are concerned that Trump's warmer tone toward Russia might encourage Putin to want to assert control across the whole region.

"There is fear in the Baltics about the incoming Trump administration's relationship with Russia, that sanctions against Russia will be weakened or called off, and not strengthened as the Congress would want," Zygimantas Pavilionis, Lithuania's former ambassador to the US told Reuters.

"If its actions in Ukraine are also forgiven, its next step is an open question," he added.

McCain and Graham are expected to travel to Latvia on Wednesday and Lithuania on Thursday.

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