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    A Latvian Army soldier walks with the NATO flag during the official welcoming ceremony of the NATO Canadian-led Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP) combat battalion in Adazi, Latvia June 19, 2017

    NATO to Stay in Baltic Region, Eastern Europe 'As Long As Necessary'

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    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance will maintain presence in the Baltic states and Eastern Europe "as long as necessary."

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — NATO will maintain increased presence in the Baltic states and Eastern Europe "as long as necessary," the organization is prepared to protect all of its allies, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Canadian CBC broadcaster on Sunday.

    "It's not possible… to give you exact date for that [staying in Eastern Europe]. We will stay there as long as necessary," Stoltenberg said, when asked how long NATO would keep up increased presence in the Baltic states and Ukraine.

    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, June 13, 2017
    © REUTERS/ Yasin Bulbul/Presidential Palace
    The NATO chief cited Crimea's reunification with Russia as one of the reasons of NATO's boosted presence in Eastern Europe. NATO has been increasing its military presence in Eastern Europe since 2014, when more than 90 percent of inhabitants of the peninsula voted to join Russia in a referendum, which Kiev and numerous Western countries do not recognize.

    Stoltenberg also said that NATO was prepared to protect all of its allies in case of any threat and was adapting to new challenges.

    "We are stepping up, we are increasing the readiness of our forces. We are deploying for the first time in our history forces in the eastern part of the alliance… We are also strengthening our ability to move forces across Europe, but also across the North Atlantic," Stoltenberg said.

    NATO chief stressed that the alliance was playing an important role in the fight against terrorism across the world, in particular, in helping the countries in Middle East and North Africa counter terrorists.

    Stoltenberg said that NATO's largest operation was in Afghanistan, and its role was to "prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for international terrorists."

    The NATO chief also mentioned the alliance's participation in the fight against Daesh terror group.

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    military presence, NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, Eastern Europe
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