Remarks by ltg h.r. mcmaster at atlantic council baltic summit dinner

President Kaljulaid, President Vejonis, Minister Linkevicius, distinguished guests and colleagues from the United States and our allies, it is an honor to address you this evening on the historic occasion of the U.S.-Baltic Centennial Summit.

Russia employs sophisticated strategies deliberately designed to achieve objectives and still fall below the target state’s threshold for a military response. Tactics include infiltrating social media, spreading propaganda, weaponizing information, and using other forms of subversion and espionage.

This attack was the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War. It was an assault on the United Kingdom’s sovereignty.

And any use of chemical weapons by a state party is a clear violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Russia has also conducted numerous cyber attacks against free nations. On March 15, the Trump administration released a report condemning the Russian government for malicious cyber intrusions that targeted U.S. critical infrastructure, including our energy sector.

Mr. Putin may believe that he is winning in this new form of warfare. He may believe that his aggressive actions—in the parks of Salisbury, in cyberspace, in the air, and on the high seas—can undermine our confidence, our institutions, and our values.

We might introduce him to the people of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, who endured the devastation of the Second World War, decades of Soviet occupation and communism, and emerged proud, strong, sovereign, free, and prosperous. These are three of the most creative and innovative nations on Earth.

We heard this truth at the United Nations. We heard this truth in Riyadh. We heard this truth in Warsaw. We heard this truth in Seoul. And, we heard this truth in the seat of our democracy, as Mr. Ji Seong-ho raised his crutches high above the chamber in defiance.

Last week, in response to Russia’s nerve agent attack, nations around the world—including the United States and the Baltic Republics—announced the coordinated expulsion of Russian officials from their countries. The United States helped catalyze a response by NATO and like-minded nations. The number of expelled officials is growing.

In the United States, President Trump ordered the removal of dozens of Russian intelligence officers, and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle. This action will also help protect our democratic institutions and processes, as these Russian officers orchestrate Russia’s sustained campaign of propaganda, disinformation, and political subversion.

The Trump administration also continues to impose sanctions and other penalties on Russian entities for targeting our cyber security, attacking our infrastructure, and otherwise infringing on the sovereign rights of the United States and our allies.

Second, we must catalyze change. We must invest in our cyber infrastructure to ensure that we protect our data, innovation base, and infrastructure against espionage and theft. To deter adversaries, we must be prepared to impose a high cost in response to cyber aggression.

In that 1940 declaration that affirmed the Baltic nations’ independence, Sumner Welles was clear: “the people of the United States are opposed to predatory activities no matter whether they are carried on by the use of force or by the threat of force.”