The US may send a Patriot missile battery to Lithuania later this year during a military exercise, a move to show US support for Baltic nations on the edge about Russian threats. US Defense Secretary James Mattis, during a joint appearance with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, would not specifically confirm the deployment but said the US presence in the Baltics is a “purely defensive stance. Everyone knows this is not an offensive capability,” according to The Associated Press. The US will only deploy defensive systems “to make certain that sovereignty is respected,” Mattis said. Grybauskaite said Lithuania needs “all necessary means for defense and for deterrence,” the AP reported. US officials have said the Patriot system could deploy in July, and be gone by the time Russia begins a major exercise in August.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.