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The Latest: Trump praises Baltic nations

Donald Trump
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump’s meetings with the leaders of Baltic states (all times local):

2:10 p.m.

President Donald Trump says the U.S. remains a steadfast ally to the three Baltic nations and is pointing to his push for NATO members to increase their defense spending.

Trump is joining the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania at the White House for a joint news conference. He says the Baltics “can trust the United States will remain a strong, proud and loyal friend and ally.”

Trump is praising the three NATO members for boosting their defense spending and says their “commitment to burden sharing” is an example for other nations to follow.

The Baltic leaders are pointing to their security commitments. Lithuania’s Dalia Grybauskaite says the Article 5 collective defense under NATO is “iron-clad for all of us.”

Estonia’s Kersti Kaljulaid says the countries are “an axis of good.”

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12:35 p.m.

President Donald Trump is telling the leaders of the three Baltic countries that no one has been tougher on Russia and says he’s been pressing NATO members to increase their defense spending.

Trump is telling the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania that “getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing.” Asked by a reporter if Vladimir Putin is a friend or a foe, Trump says, “We’ll find out. I’ll let you know.”

The president is pointing to his push for NATO members to boost their defense spending.

The meeting comes as the White House has raised the possibility of Trump welcoming Putin to the White House. The Baltic states are seen as a bulwark against Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.

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12 p.m.

The leaders of the Baltic countries have arrived at the White House for talks with President Donald Trump.

Trump’s meeting Tuesday with the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania comes a day after the White House dangled the prospect of extending a similar welcome to Russia’s Vladimir Putin. The Baltic states are seen as a bulwark against Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.

Britain recently blamed Russia for the nerve-agent poisoning of a former Russian spy on British soil. Trump joined Britain in expelling scores of Russian diplomats in response.

The leaders are expected to discuss security, business, trade and energy issues during a visit that also highlights 100 years of Baltic independence.

Trump and the three presidents are scheduled to answer journalists’ questions at a news conference after the talks.

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