- Associated Press - Thursday, December 15, 2016

TAPA, Estonia (AP) - The United States military says it’s completed $11.2 million in investments to upgrade an Estonian NATO army base as a part of a U.S. commitment to the alliance’s eastern flank, which is facing increasing tensions with Russia.

U.S. Maj. Gen. John Gronski said Thursday that the improvements to the Tapa army base symbolized the North Atlantic Treaty Organizations’s “strength and resolve” in the Baltic region.

“It’s all about readiness,” Gronski told The Associated Press at the ceremony unveiling the works. “It’s range facilities, maintenance facilities, storage facilities. That’s how you build readiness to continue to deter aggression.”

Improved facilities at the base, located 80 kilometers (50 miles) southeast of the Estonian capital of Tallinn, include new sniper and machine gun ranges, maintenance facilities and a train loading area.

The U.S. ambassador to Estonia, James Melville Jr., welcomed the investment in Tapa. He said NATO “maybe had gotten a little bit relaxed” on its defense commitments and was demonstrating increased “discipline” now.

Estonia and its Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania, all former Soviet republics, have been particularly uneasy about increased Russian military operations in the region, especially after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, and have requested U.S. and NATO troops on their soil as a deterrent.

U.S. army units have been training regularly at Tapa in recent weeks. Next year, 800 British and 300 French troops will be based here.

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This story has been corrected to show NATO’s full name.

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