U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis speaks during a news conference following a meeting with Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite at the presidential palace in Vilnius, Lithuania, Wednesday, May 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)
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U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis Tuesday criticized 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 U.S. exercises in the summer.U.S. 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 .It said the deployment was part of routine drills, but U.S. officials worry that it may represent a permanent upgrade to Kaliningrad's missile capability.The United States is ruling out any direct response to the Russian drills or the potential missile deployment.But at the same time, U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, raised the possibility that a Patriot missile battery could be deployed briefly to the Baltic region during upcoming U.S.-led summer exercises that focus on air defense.
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