TALLINN, Estonia, Sept. 3 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama, speaking Wednesday in Tallinn, Estonia, reassured Baltic allies and other NATO countries of the United States' unwavering support.
Before an audience of about 2,000 people at the Estonian capital's Nordea Concert Hall, Obama was critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin's incursions into Crimea and Ukraine and sought to calm concerns that Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, former Soviet republics that are now NATO members, might be future Russian targets of aggression.
"We'll be here for Estonia," he said, noting "you lost your independence once before. With NATO, you will never lose it again," Obama said. "Borders cannot be redrawn at the barrel of a gun."
Obama made the one-day trip to Estonia before flying to Wales to attend the NATO summit, where Russian military activities and NATO's response are on the agenda. He announced plans to increase the presence of the U.S. Air Force in Eastern Europe, adding that the Baltic republics were an ideal location to locate them. He met with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and Latvian President Andris Berzins in Tallinn's Kadriorg Art Museum.
After the meeting, Grybauskaite called Ukraine the "front line" of Europe's security, and Berzins said he seeks the presence of U.S. troops in Europe for "as long as necessary."