Germany’s Merkel cautious on sending troops to Baltics

BERLIN (AA) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday cautiously supported reinforcing NATO’s presence in Baltic states, amid growing worries over a resurgent Russia.

Addressing a joint press conference with Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis in Berlin, Merkel said NATO is currently discussing plans to reinforce the security of its eastern allies.

“Latvia takes this process very serious, as do we, the Federal Republic of Germany. These days we are examining how we can continue and possibly strengthen our engagement,” Merkel said.

But she also cautioned against creating new tensions with Russia, and urged a closer NATO-Russia dialogue.

“I personally always stress that for us it is important to remain within the framework of the NATO-Russia [Founding] Act,” Merkel stressed.

“We have strongly supported the first meeting of the NATO-Russia Council after so many months. I believe that we must always facilitate and rebuild communication channels. For me this is very important,” she said.

Baltic states, including Latvia, have long called for a permanent NATO presence in their countries, due to growing concerns over Russia’s aggressive policy, after its 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.

But Russia strongly opposes those calls, claiming that deploying permanent troops there would violate the 1997 Founding Act between NATO and Russia, in which NATO has promised not to station substantial combat forces in new members of the alliance.

NATO members are expected to reach a decision on enhancing the security of the eastern allies, at a summit in Polish capital Warsaw in July.