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Washington wins anti-Russia allies at Nordic-US leaders' summit
The Baltic states have their eye on the outcome of Friday's first-ever US-Nordic Leaders Summit in Washington, according to experts. Items on the agenda include the environment, refugees and the possibility of a future conflict with Russia.
The leaders of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden plan to discuss the refugee crisis and Nordic contributions to the fight against the Islamic State group.
But the perceived threat posed by Russia will also be a priority around the table.
“This relationship between the Nordic countries and the US is seen as important because the US is the number one strategic partner for the Baltic states," said Ramūnas Vilpišauskas, director of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science in Lithuania.
"It would have, of course, been better if the Baltic countries were also invited since there is such a format of Nordic-Baltic states, which is practised before each EU summit.
"But even without being in the States today, I think Baltic leaders are watching the meeting and this is a positive sign.”
Nordic-Baltic experts say that Russian President Vladimir Putin has changed the dynamics of the region and is acting in a way that has not been seen since the Cold War.
Moscow insists that Nato is using scare tactics to justify the rise of defence spending by European Union members.
Last month a Russian aircraft flew over the Baltic Sea, zooming over an American ship.
Russian submarines are also suspected to be submerged close to the shores of Sweden and Finland.
“I don’t think the summit is taking the Nordic-US relationship to a new level," said Gorm Rye Olsen, a political expert at Roskilde University in Denmark.
"I think the relationship has been good for many years. What is interesting this time is that it seems as if [US President Barack] Obama is interested in hearing or learning about some of the softer issues. The security communities in the Scandinavian countries and in the United States are in close contact, so they know what is going on.“
Obama is worried about Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in relation to Russia, he added.
“There’s no doubt that the American political establishment is definitely worried about the threat coming from Russia," Olsen told RFI. "America is far more willing to take a tough stand against Russia compared to the Europeans.”
Reports say that Russia’s latest response has been to strengthen its own troops along the western border.