HELSINKI (AP) — The United States has allocated $169 million in military aid to the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for 2021, the Estonian Defense Ministry said Wednesday.
The aid earmarked through a new joint U.S.-Baltic security program was included in the U.S. defense appropriations bill approved by Congress and signed into law on Tuesday. In a Twitter post, Estonia's Defense Ministry called the move “important & highly appreciated news”
Washington has provided military assistance before to the three Baltic nations, which are NATO members. However, the Estonian ministry said this was the first time the aid is being allocated through a dedicated program, the Baltic Security Initiative.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are former Soviet republics which joined NATO in 2004. All three countries border Russia.
“The decision by the U.S. Congress demonstrates that our strongest ally is committed to the defense of our region and understands the security challenges here," Estonian Defense Minister Juri Luik said in a statement.
He said the measure confirmed that “the United States sees Estonia and the Baltic states as trustworthy allies who take their commitment to defense seriously" by investing into their national defense capabilities and contributing to NATO operations.
The Defense Ministry noted that the U.S. has maintained an active military presence in the Baltic region this year and Estonia's military held multiple joint exercises with the U.S. Army, Air Force and Navy.
From late September to early November, the U.S. Cyber Command held a joint operation with Estonia to help the nation search out and block potential cyber-threats from Russia.