ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, September 15, 2015 —
Russia has violated a sovereign nation's borders by force, the
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today in Tallinn, Estonia.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey was in the capital city for two days of
discussions with military and political leaders on the response to Russian
aggression in Ukraine and to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the collective
defense of Estonia. He also met with U.S. rotational forces and Estonian troops
who are training together about 60 miles east of Tallinn.
The rotational presence is part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which
calls for U.S. forces to train with NATO partners in the alliance's eastern
flank. The forces were deployed after Russia's aggression in Ukraine last year.
The Russian violations are what caused NATO allies to become
"unsettled," Dempsey said Tuesday in a press conference alongside Lt.
Gen. Riho Terras, the Estonian chief of defense,
The question, Dempsey said, is whether Russia would again violate a
nation's sovereignty, taking into account the Russian-Georgian war in 2008 and
then last year's intervention in Ukraine.
The United States stands with Estonia, and there is no
"greater symbol of commitment" than the presence of U.S. troops on
the ground, the chairman said.
Partner in Estonia
The chairman's trip was part of a number of visits he has made to
countries that are "stalwart allies," contributing people and
hardware to missions around the world.
Dempsey thanked Estonia for its strong partnership and the service
and sacrifice of the men and women of the Estonian Defense Forces who have
served alongside the U.S. in missions including Afghanistan and Iraq.
The United States is a strong ally that took swift action after
Russia's intervention in Ukraine, Terras said, noting U.S. planes arrived just 20
hours later in the Baltic states, with boots on the ground in Estonia a month
About 5,000 U.S. troops have rotated through Estonia since April
2014, as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
"I believe we have a very close and mutual understanding
concerning the threats that aggressive Russia is posing toward the eastern
flank of NATO," Terras said.
Visit to Baltic Ally
The chairman also met Monday with Terras, Prime Minister Taavi
Roivas and outgoing minister of Defense Sven Mikser. The discussions focused on
the U.S. trans-Atlantic bond and long-term plans for the region emphasizing
Estonia is a strong partner to the United States and NATO.
"The U.S. is, without a doubt, the most important ally for
Estonia," Roivas told Dempsey.
Concerns they shared focused on Russian capabilities, and how
quickly Russia can move military equipment in the interior lines and conduct
The United States has shown a "very strong resolve," Terras
said. "We are grateful for the lead that the U.S. has taken in that
The situation in Ukraine and Russia is "quite worrying"
for the small nation, according to Estonian 2nd Lt. Simmo Saar, who spoke
Monday in a media briefing at the Estonian Defense Forces Headquarters.
"When you ask, 'Are we satisfied with the help from U.S. and
NATO?' Then the answer is, 'Positively yes,'" he said. In sending the
rotational forces to Estonia, the United States "was actually the first
who had the courage to make the first step and we are really grateful for
that," Saar added.
"It gives us assurance that we are not alone and that our
allies are actually here to help us if needed," he said.
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)