Reuters . Wed, March 3, 2021, 5:55 PM
VILNIUS/OSLO (Reuters) – A nuclear-capable, long-range U.S. bomber flew over the capitals of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia on Wednesday in a show of solidarity with NATO allies, the U.S. Air Force said, amid Western concerns over a more assertive Russia.
“This mission sends a clear message that our commitment to our NATO allies is unshakeable,” Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa commander said in a statement. “We’re in this together.”
Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were once ruled from Moscow but are now part of both NATO and the European Union.
The three Baltic states have hosted NATO and U.S. troops on their soil since Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 from Ukraine, which is not a NATO member.
The Russian Embassy in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
The bomber that flew on Wednesday is one of four deployed to Norway on Feb. 22 to operate in the strategically important Arctic region for several weeks.
It is the first time this type of plane has been deployed in Norway and was accompanied by some 200 U.S. Air Force personnel.
Norway, a founding member of NATO, shares a border with Russia in the Arctic.
(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius and Gwladys Fouche in Oslo; Editing by Gareth Jones)