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On Wednesday, March 19, Vice President of the United States Joe Biden began his official meetings in Vilnius with Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite and Latvia's President Andris Berzins, reports ELTA.
On Tuesday evening, the U.S. vice president arrived in Vilnius from Warsaw, Poland, where he held meetings with Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Poland's President Bronislaw Komorowski and Estonia's President Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
Political observers regard Biden's visit to the region as a U.S. demonstration of solidarity with NATO allies in the context of Russia's actions in Ukraine.
Polish Prime Minister Tusk noted that Biden's visit came at a fateful moment when the geopolitical landscape of post-World War II Europe was being rearranged as never before, said The New York Times. "Before our eyes," he said, "the history of our region is changing." Tusk also stressed that "only Euro-Atlantic solidarity will allow us to prepare sufficient and strong reactions to Russia's aggression."
Meanwhile, citing the need for friends to "stand with one another," the U.S. vice president reassured Poland and the Baltic States that the United States would protect them from any Russian aggression such as the actions the Kremlin has taken in Crimea.
The U.S. has already sent additional F-16 fighter jets to Poland and 10 more American F-15s, instead of a planned four, assigned to a NATO operation that polices the skies over the Baltic States. Biden also spoke of rotating more American ground and naval forces through the Baltics for training exercises.
The vice president announced no changes to the American missile defense system being built in Poland and Romania. He said the project was on track and would be operational by 2018.
Biden also raised energy security issues with the Europeans, many of whom rely on Russia for much of their natural gas. He urged them to diversify their energy sources by investing in shale gas and nuclear technology, making the countries less vulnerable to Russia using its gas shipments as a political weapon.
American lawmakers have called on the Obama administration to speed up permits that would allow shipments of more American liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe. But to date, the administration has issued only six permits for the construction of export terminals.
A senior official traveling with the vice president said there were various legal and regulatory hurdles to starting a major trade in gas.