NB: This story has been updated. Please see new story here.
WASHINGTON, August 30 (RIA Novosti) – US President Barack Obama is meeting Friday at The White House with the presidents of the former Soviet Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, for talks that are expected to focus on regional defense, trans-Atlantic trade, and energy and cyber security issues, the White House said.
The talks with Toomas Hendrik Ilves of Estonia, Dalia Grybauskaitė of Lithuania, and Andris Bērziņš of Latvia, come days before Obama is due to travel to Russia for a summit meeting of leaders of the G-20 major economies, and amid soaring tensions between Washington and Moscow over Syria.
Obama and the three Baltic leaders will also discuss “the significant transformations the Baltic states have undergone since restoring their independence two decades ago,” the White House said.
The three Baltic states, which were annexed by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II, have had historically tense relations with Moscow ever since they regained independence in the early 1990s when the USSR crumbled. All three countries joined the European Union (EU) and the NATO military alliance in 2004, and have seen strong economic growth.
When the meeting was announced last month, Grybauskaitė said in a statement released by the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which is currently held by Lithuania, that cooperation between the Baltic states and Washington has been “more intense than ever” in the past few years, and called Washington “a major partner.”
The Baltic states also want to smooth the way for shale gas exports from the United States to NATO member countries, to ensure diversified energy supplies and lower prices for consumers in Europe, Grybauskaitė was quoted as saying.
Russia is currently the largest oil, gas, uranium and coal exporter to the EU, with more than a third of EU gas imports in 2009 coming from Russia.
Also on the agenda at the meeting between the four leaders will be efforts to advance human rights and democratic values around the world.