Obama aims to show solidarity with Baltics, sends clear message to Putin

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Obama aims to show solidarity with Baltics, sends clear message to Putin
President Barack Obama listens as British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a news conference at the G7 summit in Brussels, Belgium, Thursday, June 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
US President Barack Obama greets US Ambassador to Britain Matthew Winthrop Barzun (L) as he disembarks from Air Force One upon arrival at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, England, on September 3, 2014, on the eve of a NATO summit in Wales. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
NEWPORT, WALES - SEPTEMBER 3: British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) meets with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 3, 2014 in Newport, Wales, United Kingdom. Some 67 world leaders will be attending the NATO summit at Celtic Manor September 4-5. (Photo by Leon Neal - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama waves as he disembarks from Air Force One upon arrival at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, England, on September 3, 2014, on the eve of a NATO summit in Wales. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
David Cameron, U.K. prime minister, speaks to employees at General Dynamics Corp.'s U.K. division during a tour of the company's plant in Newport, U.K., on Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014. Cameron will today sign a 3.5 billion-pound ($5.8 billion) order from General Dynamics for nearly 600 armored Scout vehicles for the British Army. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at Nordea Concert Hall in Tallinn, Estonia, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014. Obama is in Estonia for a one day visit where he will meet with Baltic State leaders before heading to the NATO Summit in Wales. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama British Prime Minister David Cameron participate in a news conference at the G7 summit in Brussels, Belgium, Thursday, June 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - JUNE 4: US President Barack Obama (R) and British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) attend a joint press conference on the last day of the G7 summit at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on June 5, 2014. Leaders of the worlds leading industrialized countries minus Russia met in Brussels for a Group of Seven summit to discuss the situation in Ukraine and the relations with Moscow.(Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (R) and British Prime Minister David Cameron hold a joint press conference during the G7 Summit at the European Council in Brussels, on June 5, 2014. Leaders of the Group of Seven industrialised nations head from a two-day summit in Brussels to Paris before travelling to D-Day commemorations in Normandy on June 6 where they will rub shoulders with the Russian leader. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
iU.S. President Barack Obama steps off Air Force One as he arrives in Tallinn, Estonia, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, for a one day visit where he will meet with Baltic State leaders before heading to the NATO Summit in Wales. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama and 89th Airlift Wing Commander Col. John Millard walk on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014. President Obama flies to Estonia, in a show of solidarity with one of the countries that could benefit from NATO’s plans to expand its military presence in Eastern Europe. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
U.S. President Barack Obama high fives a child as he is welcomed by Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014. Obama is in Estonia for a one day visit where he will meet with Baltic State leaders before heading to the NATO Summit in Wales. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
U.S. President Barack Obama is greeted by Urmas Paet, Estonia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, left, and Toomas Kahur, Estonia's Chief of Protocol, center, as he arrives in Tallinn, Estonia, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, for a one day visit where he will meet with Baltic State leaders before heading to the NATO Summit in Wales. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Journalists wait to photograph U.S. President Barack Obama as he steps off Air Force One upon arrival in Tallinn, Estonia, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, for a one day visit where he will meet with Baltic State leaders before heading to the NATO Summit in Wales. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama walks to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, as he begins his trip to Estonia and Wales for the NATO Summit. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama walks out of the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014 to board Marine One for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., then onto Estonia for meetings with Baltic leaders then onto Wales for a NATO summit. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama returns a salute as he disembarks Marine One helicopter to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, as he begins his trip to Estonia and Wales for the NATO Summit. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
U.S. President Barack Obama and with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves review the honor guard at Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014. Obama is in Estonia for a one day visit where he will meet with Baltic State leaders before heading to the NATO Summit in Wales. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
U.S. President Barack Obama and with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves review the honor guard at Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014. Obama is in Estonia for a one day visit where he will meet with Baltic State leaders before heading to the NATO Summit in Wales. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
U.S. President Barack Obama, right, meets with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014. Obama is in Estonia for a one day visit where he will meet with Baltic State leaders before heading to the NATO Summit in Wales. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
U.S. President Barack Obama signs a guest book for Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014. Obama is in Estonia for a one day visit where he will meet with Baltic State leaders before heading to the NATO Summit in Wales. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
The guest book is placed on a table after it was signed by U.S. President Barack Obama after he was welcomed by Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014. Obama is in Estonia for a one day visit where he will meet with Baltic State leaders before heading to the NATO Summit in Wales. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
U.S. President Barack Obama and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves review the honor guard at Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014. Obama is in Estonia for a one day visit where he will meet with Baltic State leaders before heading to the NATO Summit in Wales. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
U.S. President Barack Obama and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves are seated with their respective delegations during their meeting at Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014. Obama is in Estonia for a one day visit where he will meet with Baltic State leaders before heading to the NATO Summit in Wales. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
US President Barack Obama (L) and Estonia's President Toomas Hendrik Ilves (2nd R) listen to their national anthems prior to meetings at the Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, September 3, 2014. US President Barack Obama arrived in Estonia aboard Air Force One to meet Baltic leaders and reaffirm Washington's commitment to the security of ex-Soviet NATO members. AFP PHOTO / ILMARS ZNOTINS (Photo credit should read ILMARS ZNOTINS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (C) shakes hands with Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas (2nd R) prior to meetings at the Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, September 3, 2014. US President Barack Obama arrived in Estonia aboard Air Force One to meet Baltic leaders and reaffirm Washington's commitment to the security of ex-Soviet NATO members. AFP PHOTO / ILMARS ZNOTINS (Photo credit should read ILMARS ZNOTINS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (R) is greeted by local children prior to meetings with the Estonian President at the Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, September 3, 2014. US President Barack Obama arrived in Estonia aboard Air Force One to meet Baltic leaders and reaffirm Washington's commitment to the security of ex-Soviet NATO members. AFP PHOTO / ILMARS ZNOTINS (Photo credit should read ILMARS ZNOTINS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (C) speaks to local children prior to meetings with the Estonian President at the Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, September 3, 2014. US President Barack Obama arrived in Estonia aboard Air Force One to meet Baltic leaders and reaffirm Washington's commitment to the security of ex-Soviet NATO members. AFP PHOTO / ILMARS ZNOTINS (Photo credit should read ILMARS ZNOTINS/AFP/Getty Images)
Estonia's President Toomas Hendrik Ilves (L) and US President Barack Obama (2nd L) inspect a military honor guard prior to meetings at the Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, September 3, 2014. US President Barack Obama arrived in Estonia aboard Air Force One to meet Baltic leaders and reaffirm Washington's commitment to the security of ex-Soviet NATO members. AFP PHOTO / ILMARS ZNOTINS (Photo credit should read ILMARS ZNOTINS/AFP/Getty Images)
Estonia's President Toomas Hendrik Ilves (L) and US President Barack Obama (C) inspect a military honor guard prior to meetings at the Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, September 3, 2014. US President Barack Obama arrived in Estonia aboard Air Force One to meet Baltic leaders and reaffirm Washington's commitment to the security of ex-Soviet NATO members. AFP PHOTO / ILMARS ZNOTINS (Photo credit should read ILMARS ZNOTINS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (L) and Estonia's President Toomas Hendrik Ilves (2nd R) arrive for meetings at the Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, September 3, 2014. US President Barack Obama arrived in Estonia aboard Air Force One to meet Baltic leaders and reaffirm Washington's commitment to the security of ex-Soviet NATO members. AFP PHOTO / ILMARS ZNOTINS (Photo credit should read ILMARS ZNOTINS/AFP/Getty Images)
Estonia's President Toomas Hendrik Ilves (C) welcomes US President Barack Obama (L) for meetings at the Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, September 3, 2014. US President Barack Obama arrived in Estonia aboard Air Force One to meet Baltic leaders and reaffirm Washington's commitment to the security of ex-Soviet NATO members. AFP PHOTO / ILMARS ZNOTINS (Photo credit should read ILMARS ZNOTINS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (L) and Estonia's President Toomas Hendrik Ilves (2nd R) listen to their national anthems prior to meetings at the Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, September 3, 2014. US President Barack Obama arrived in Estonia aboard Air Force One to meet Baltic leaders and reaffirm Washington's commitment to the security of ex-Soviet NATO members. AFP PHOTO / ILMARS ZNOTINS (Photo credit should read ILMARS ZNOTINS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (L) and Estonia's President Toomas Hendrik Ilves (C) listen to their national anthems prior to meetings at the Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, September 3, 2014. US President Barack Obama arrived in Estonia aboard Air Force One to meet Baltic leaders and reaffirm Washington's commitment to the security of ex-Soviet NATO members. AFP PHOTO / ILMARS ZNOTINS (Photo credit should read ILMARS ZNOTINS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (L) and Estonia's President Toomas Hendrik Ilves (C) listen to their national anthems prior to meetings at the Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, September 3, 2014. US President Barack Obama arrived in Estonia aboard Air Force One to meet Baltic leaders and reaffirm Washington's commitment to the security of ex-Soviet NATO members. AFP PHOTO / ILMARS ZNOTINS (Photo credit should read ILMARS ZNOTINS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama's message in a guest book is seen prior to meetings at the Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, September 3, 2014. US President Barack Obama arrived in Estonia aboard Air Force One to meet Baltic leaders and reaffirm Washington's commitment to the security of ex-Soviet NATO members. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (L) and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves walk up stairs to hold meetings at the Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, September 3, 2014. US President Barack Obama arrived in Estonia aboard Air Force One to meet Baltic leaders and reaffirm Washington's commitment to the security of ex-Soviet NATO members. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (3rd R) and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves (3rd L) hold meetings at the Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, September 3, 2014. US President Barack Obama arrived in Estonia aboard Air Force One to meet Baltic leaders and reaffirm Washington's commitment to the security of ex-Soviet NATO members. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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BY JULIE PACE

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) - President Barack Obama will stand shoulder to shoulder with Baltic leaders Wednesday in a show of solidarity with NATO allies who fear they could be the next target of Russia's aggression.

After arriving early Wednesday in Estonia's port capital of Tallinn, Obama was greeted at Kadriorg Palace by Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves on a crisp and sunny morning. Obama placed his hand over his heart as the U.S. national anthem played, then inspected Estonian troops with Ilves and shook hands with groups of flag-waving schoolchildren.

The two leaders then entered the palace, where Obama signed a guest book.

"It's an honor to visit Estonia - a nation that shows what free people can achieve together," Obama wrote. "May we strengthen our friendship for future generations."

Obama and Ilves, along with several advisers, then opened a bilateral meeting. They were to take questions from reporters later Wednesday before holding broader security talks that include the leaders of Latvia and Lithuania.

Obama's daylong trip to Estonia comes ahead of a NATO summit this week at which allies will commit to a more robust response to Russia's incursion in Ukraine. Moscow's moves have sparked fears among member states on NATO's eastern flank that they could be Russian President Vladimir Putin's next target.

White House officials say Obama will reassure the Baltics that the U.S. would come to their defense it they were attacked. Under the NATO charter, an attack on one member is considered an attack on the entire alliance.

During the NATO summit in Wales starting Thursday, the alliance will also agree on a more robust rapid response force that will involve positioning more troops and equipment in the Baltics and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. It's unclear whether the plan will satisfy the concerns of the Baltic nations, who have been pressing NATO for permanent bases in the region.

Even before the Ukraine crisis, relations between the Baltic countries and Russia were chilly. Moscow routinely accuses them of discriminating against their Russian-speaking minorities.

About a third of Estonia's 1.3 million residents have Russian as their mother tongue. Many of them feel detached from Estonian society and get their news from Kremlin-controlled Russian TV stations.

The Baltics were invaded by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany during World War II. After the Soviet Union crumbled, the Baltic countries turned to the West and joined the European Union and NATO in 2004, much to the chagrin of Russia.

Obama will depart Tallinn late Wednesday for Wales, which is hosting the two-day NATO summit.

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Associated Press writers Liudas Dapkus in Vilnius, Lithuania, and Jari Tanner in Tallinn contributed to this report.

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Follow Julie Pace on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

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