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Biden pledges more military support for Central Europe, Lithuanian official says

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By Reuters

By Andrius Sytas and Joanna Plucinska

VILNIUS/WARSAW -U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday promised Central European NATO members more military support as concern grows over a Russian troop build-up on the border with Ukraine, Lithuania’s presidential adviser said.

Biden also reassured the allies that Washington would not reach any agreement with Russia about the region behind their backs, adviser Asta Skaisgiryte told reporters.

The U.S. president had spoken by phone to the leaders of NATO countries along the alliance’s border with Russia, Belarus and Ukraine – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria.

“He said additional reassurance elements are possible in these countries, and additional military capabilities,” Skaisgiryte said, without naming possible locations.

Russia has amassed troops on its border with Ukraine, where Kremlin-backed rebels have been fighting the Kyiv government, raising fears that it might be preparing to invade.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied he intends to attack Ukraine, but he has bridled https://www.reuters.com/markets/rates-bonds/russia-keeps-tensions-high-over-ukraine-while-waiting-next-biden-move-2021-12-09 against what he sees as NATO‘s eastward expansion and the deployment of military hardware close to its border.

‘DETERRENCE ANDDEFENCE

On the leaders’ call, Polish President Andrzej Duda pressed Biden to ensure that talks on how to handle any potential Russian aggression were not carried out solely in a small circle of countries, a Polish official said.

Before a call with Putin on Tuesday, Biden consulted with the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Italy.

“Four countries can’t speak on behalf of NATO,” the Polish official told Reuters.

Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau on Friday also called for strengthened defence on NATO‘s eastern flank amid what he called a rising threat from Russia.

“For us, there is no doubt that in the face of the deterioration of the security environment in the east … we need to jointly strive to ensure even greater deterrence and defence of our states,” Rau told a press conference.

In Washington, a senior Biden administration official said Biden told the NATO leaders the U.S. was committed to the alliance’s charter which says an armed attack against one member shall be considered an attack on them all.

Biden’s phone call with them followed his promise of high-level meetings with Russia and major NATO allies to discuss Moscow’s concerns and to try to cool tensions.

The senior U.S. official said the United States was prepared to discuss security issues with Moscow but that Biden made no concessions when he spoke to Putin on Tuesday.