July 31, 2017 - 12:00 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - US Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday, July 30 raised the possibility of deploying the Patriot anti-missile defence system in Estonia, one of three NATO Baltic states worried by Russian expansionism, Prime Minister Juri Ratas said, according to AFP.
"We spoke about it today, but we didn't talk about a date or time," Ratas told state broadcaster ERR after Pence began a visit to the tiny frontline state.
The Patriot is a mobile, ground-based system designed to intercept incoming missiles and warplanes.
"We talked about the upcoming (Russian military) manoeuvres near the Estonian border... and how Estonia, the United States and NATO should monitor them and exchange information," Ratas said.
Relations between Moscow and Tallinn have been fraught since Estonia broke free from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991, joining both the EU and NATO in 2004 -- a move that Russia says boosted its own fears of encirclement by the West.
Concern in Estonia and fellow Baltic states Latvia and Lithuania surged after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and stepped up military exercises.
Pence, in remarks to journalists in the Estonian capital of Tallinn, spoke in strong but general terms about US support for eastern European countries.
On Monday, he heads to Georgia -- a non-NATO member that is also worried about Russia -- and then to Montenegro, which became NATO's 29th member on June 5.
Moscow last year deployed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles into its Kaliningrad exclave, which borders Lithuania and Poland.
It is due to hold massive military exercises in Belarus and Kaliningrad in September. The so-called "Zapad" ("West") drills will see Russia showcase new hardware and upgrade existing systems in its western military region.