Norway-based US bomber flies over Baltic states in show of solidarity, says Air Force

The move to base U.S. bombers in Norway has already provoked a Russian response, in the form of a missile test in the Arctic's Bear Gap.

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VILNIUS/OSLO — A long-range U.S. bomber flew over the capitals of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia on Wednesday in a show of solidarity with NATO allies, the U.S. Air Force said, amid Western concerns over a more assertive Russia.

“This mission sends a clear message that our commitment to our NATO allies is unshakeable,” Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa commander said in a statement. “We’re in this together.”

[Russia announces Bear Gap missile tests as US bombers deploy to Norway]

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were once ruled from Moscow but are now part of both NATO and the European Union.

The three Baltic states have hosted NATO and U.S. troops on their soil since Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 from Ukraine, which is not a NATO member.

The Russian Embassy in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The bomber that flew on Wednesday is one of four deployed to Norway on Feb. 22 to operate in the strategically important Arctic region for several weeks.

It is the first time this type of plane has been deployed in Norway and was accompanied by some 200 U.S. Air Force personnel. Russia undertook a missile test in Arctic waters north of Norway in the days before that deployment.

Norway, a founding member of NATO, shares a border with Russia in the Arctic.

Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius and Gwladys Fouche in Oslo.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the B-1B bomber as “nuclear-capable.” The story has been updated to correct that error.