Poland, Lithuania and Latvia consider triggering NATO’s Article 4 over the Belarus border crisis

This article is over 7 months old Russian troops check the Belarus border; countries’ leaders hold emergency summit Poland, Lithuania and Latvia consider triggering NATO’s Article 4 over the Belarus border crisis Three Baltic…

Poland, Lithuania and Latvia consider triggering NATO's Article 4 over the Belarus border crisis

This article is over 7 months old

Russian troops check the Belarus border; countries’ leaders hold emergency summit

Poland, Lithuania and Latvia consider triggering NATO’s Article 4 over the Belarus border crisis

Three Baltic states will consider activating NATO’s mutual defence clauses if Russia is seen violating their borders, the Lithuanian president, Dalia Grybauskaite, said on Tuesday after holding an emergency summit with Polish and Latvian leaders.

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The three leaders had a number of “positive and important” phone conversations with the American defence secretary, Jim Mattis, and other NATO defence ministers, Grybauskaite said, without giving further details.

Mattis, who was on a visit to Estonia, said the talks had been “very productive” and that he had conveyed the message to the Baltic states “that the alliance is ready to come to their aid”.

On Monday a Russian military border patrol team had discovered a group of illegal immigrants crossing the border from Belarus, according to the Belarus defence ministry.

Russia denied any violation of Belarus’s borders, saying the alert was probably part of a counter-intelligence operation against Russian special services.

Hours after the incident, President Vladimir Putin signalled Moscow was ready to step up control of the Belarus border.

“To avoid a similar situation happening again, the Russian Federation will draw up measures aimed at increasing control at its own borders,” the Kremlin quoted Putin as saying.

Mattis said while the military was aware of what Putin had said, his trip was “about the defensive nature of the alliance and the steps that they are taking to shore up the defences of their security”.

Baltic states grew increasingly alarmed when the Kremlin annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014 and joined a Moscow-led military alliance near Russia’s eastern border.

Moscow justified its actions with the rationale that Russia has a historic interest in Ukraine’s territory and its rivers.

NATO has accused Russia of violating the terms of a 2015 ceasefire deal, mainly in eastern Ukraine, where Kiev has accused Moscow of sending troops and weaponry.

In November, Turkey also accused Russia of interfering with border checks and monitoring at its northern frontier, straining ties with Nato member Ankara.

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