US F-35s arrive in Lithuania, Romania
NATO takes to its eastern flank in light of the rising tensions in Ukraine amid a Russian special military operation.
The US Air Force's F-35 fighters have arrived in Lithuania on Thursday, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said Thursday.
"In Lithuania, on February 24, armed US F-35 military aircraft landed at the airbase of the Lithuanian Army Air Force in Siauliai, where additional US military forces are deployed," the ministry said in a statement.
The US has also taken an "important and necessary" decision in response to the current security situation, which is the continuation of the rotation of the heavy 3-66 armor battalion in Lithuania, Vilnius added.
An additional two F-35s landed at a Romanian airbase on Thursday, the country's defense ministry said.
The jets will be training and running missions with the Romanian military in the coming period.
NATO had ordered its military commanders to intensify preparations to defend allied territory following the Russian military's special operation in Donbass, putting hundreds of its aircraft and naval vessels on alert and agreeing to increase the presence of its troops in Eastern Europe.
The United States had already declared its intention to send more US troops present in Europe more eastward, CNN reports said.
In light of the tensions between Russia and the West, the United Kingdom summoned the Russian military attache in the country in a statement against Moscow's military operation.
Tensions had been soaring between Russia and Ukraine over the Donbass region and announcing it was intending to sign a decree recognizing the independence of the Lugansk People's Republic (LPR) and the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR).
Russia later recognized the two republics as independent, and thousands took to the street to protest the declaration.
The announcement had been preceded by intense Ukrainian shelling of the two republics, and Russia's recognition of their statehood was a move to protect the innocent civilians from the Ukrainian aggressions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had earlier authorized a special military operation in Donbass this Thursday morning, citing neo-Nazi NATO allies moving closer to his nation's border.
In response to the Russian operation in Donbass, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland have agreed to hold consultations in accordance with NATO's Article 4.
Russia has for months been warning of the threat posed against it by NATO's attempts to expand eastward, which happened simultaneously with an increase in NATO military activity along Russia's borders, and batches of lethal weapons being sent to Ukraine, prompting Russia to request security guarantees from the West. Washington failed to provide the guarantees.