An MC-130J Commando II and crews assigned to the 7th Special Operations Squadron prepare a forward area refueling point for resupply of MH-47 Chinooks assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) in Pajoustic, Lithuania, on May 15, 2016, as part of exercise Trojan Footprint 16. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Chris Sullivan.
The House-passed fiscal 2020 defense policy bill calls on the Pentagon to explore providing more air and missile defense systems, surveillance capability, and deployments of US personnel to three Baltic states in response to Russian aggression.
The bill, approved 220-197 in a party-line vote on July 12, includes a provision that calls on the Pentagon to assess how the US can collaborate more closely with Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, and what those countries need. Defense officials should consider possible activities to “increase the rotational and forward presence” of US forces, improve air defenses, increase intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, boost maritime domain awareness, and grow bilateral and multilateral exercises, lawmakers said.
The measure does not offer any additional funding or direct specific deployments, but builds on the European Deterrence Initiative that boosts US presence in Eastern Europe. The study is due one year after the National Defense Authorization Act becomes law.
Lawmakers argue DOD needs to focus more on the three Baltic states because they are “particularly vulnerable to an increasingly aggressive and subversive Russia” as the nation tries to diminish NATO, has invaded Ukraine’s Republic of Crimea, and disregards treaties.
“The United States should lead a multilateral effort to develop a strategy to deepen joint capabilities with Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, NATO allies, and other regional partners, to deter against aggression from Russia in the Baltic region, specifically in areas that would strengthen interoperability, joint capabilities, and military readiness necessary for Baltic countries to strengthen their national resilience,” the bill states.