Baltics request 'permanent' NATO brigade

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The senior military commanders in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are to send a letter to NATO's commander in Europe, US General Philip Breedlove, requesting a major troop reinforcement for the region. 

"At a meeting of Baltic armed forces commanders recently in Lithuania... they agreed on sending a joint letter to NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Philip Breedlove in which, given the geopolitical situation in the region, they will request a higher - brigade level - permanent Allied military presence with a roughly battalion-level placement of units in each country," a statement by the Latvian Defense Ministry said.

"It is anticipated the joint letter will be sent next week," the statement said.

"An Allied presence is an essential prerequisite for Latvia's security in a situation where Russia does not change its policies regarding the Ukraine conflict and at the same time strongly demonstrates its military presence and potential in the Baltic Sea region," the statement concludes.

While listing various evidences of NATO's commitment to defend the Baltic states, such as the increase of its training exercises and more planes on its Baltic air patrol missions, the statement does not explain why the request for a "permanent" presence has been made now, after senior figures including Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma and Defense Minister Raimonds Vejonis previously said they were happy with NATO troops coming as part of rotating training exercises.

Nor does the statement explain why it has been decided to go public with the letter a week before it has even been sent.

Until now, the only semi-permanent presence in the region has been from around 150 US troops in each country.

Brigade strength constituted of three Baltic battalions would most likely mean around 1,500-3,000 troops in total - a major increase by any standards.

Chief of Defense General Raimonds Graube will be the Latvian signatory to the letter.

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