LONDON (TIP): British defence secretary Michael Fallon on February 19 said the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia could be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s next targets. He feared Russia would use covert tactics like those it used to annex Crimea and in the current Ukraine conflict.

“I’m worried about Putin,” Fallon said. “I’m worried about his pressure on the Baltics, the way he’s testing Nato. You’ve tanks and armour rolling across the Ukrainian border and you’ve an Estonian border guard being captured and not yet still returned. When you’ve jets being flown up the English Channel, when you’ve submarines in the North Sea, it looks to me like it’s warming up.” 

Warning “there is a real and present danger” of Russia trying to destabilise the Baltics, he asked Nato to be ready for aggression from Russia “in whatever form it takes”. Britain has decided to contribute up to 1,000 troops to a high-readiness force and deploy four RAF Typhoon jets for air policing in the Baltic States to boost Nato’s collective security.

The comments came after Kiev called for UN peacekeepers to help implement a ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels in the east of the country.

Fallon confirmed the UK would be the lead nation for Nato’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) in 2017 and then on rotation thereafter. The VJTF is a high-readiness, multinational force which will act as a
‘Spearhead force’, forming Nato’s first response in the face of aggression.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former secretary-general of Nato, said Putin had dangerous ambitions beyond Ukraine and aimed to test Western resolve in the Baltic states.

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