VILNIUS -- US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday criticised what he called a destabilizing Russian military build-up near Baltic states and officials suggested the United States could deploy Patriot missiles in the region for US exercises in the summer.
US allies are jittery ahead of war games by Russia and Belarus in September that could involve up to 100,000 troops and include nuclear weapons training -- the biggest such exercise since 2013.
The drills could see Russian troops on the border with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
Russia has also deployed Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, its enclave on the Baltic Sea. It said the deployment was part of routine drills, but US officials worry that it may represent a permanent upgrade to Kaliningrad's missile capability.
Asked during a trip to Lithuania about the Russian missile deployment, Mattis told a news conference: "Any kind of buildup like that is simply destabilizing."