Thu, Mar 08, 2018 - Page 9 News List

Baltic nations warn the US not to underestimate Russia threat

By Dave Clark  /  AFP, WASHINGTON

In Washington, a special prosecutor has already filed several charges against alleged Russian hackers and online propagandists, and is probing allegations that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian agents.

The probe has angered Trump, who denies any collaboration and plays down the idea that Putin might have tried to swing the 2016 election his way, as the White House staggers from one scandalous revelation to another.

The US Department of State under Tillerson has so far failed to draw up a list of targets for new sanctions on Russia, despite US Congress having passed a law authorizing tough new measures.

This week, it emerged that the department has yet to receive tens of millions of dollars that Congress wanted transferred from the defense budget to begin an anti-Russian counterpropaganda effort.

Trump has complained that the political focus on the scandal has undermined any effort he might have made to patch up ties with Putin and to work with Russia to fight terrorism and to isolate North Korea.

However, for the ministers it would be a mistake to ignore one threat to deal with another, when cyberspace and the globalized economy and media marketplace are becoming one hybrid battlefield.

“Security these days is increasingly indivisible,” Mikser said. “There’s no clear division between internal and external security, and also geographically. Security is becoming globalized.”

The visiting trio urged Washington to look the threat to their own and to European institutions in the face.

“We’re always suggesting to our colleagues in the United States and Europe to be more realistic, not to be naive. Dialogue is important as long as it doesn’t serve as a smoke screen to do nothing,” Linkevicius said.

The Lithuanian envoy noted Putin’s belligerence in a recent speech, in which he boasted that Russia had developed a new generation of nuclear arms to bypass missile defenses.

“That type of dialogue is not acceptable, and that’s military power, it’s not dialogue, it’s something else,” Linkevicius said.

All three ministers agreed that they would like to see US troops based more permanently in the Baltic, alongside their British, Canadian and German allies.

“We really should act, and do this visibly with tangible means,” Linkevicius said. “NATO will never escalate. NATO will never be aggressive, but nobody should be in any doubt that we will do whatever necessary to protect our territories.”

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