President Donald Trump refused to describe Russia as a security threat at a joint press conference on Aug. 28 with his Finnish counterpart, Sauli Niinisto.
The Hill reported that a journalist asked Trump if he thought Russia's actions in the Baltic region posed a threat.
"I consider many countries as a security threat unfortunately, when you look at what's going on in the world today," Trump said in response.
In July, Russia carried out a joint naval exercise with China in the Baltic Sea. The Trump administration sent Vice President Mike Pence to the region to consult with allies.
Trump added that the U.S. is "very protective of that region."
The U.S. has also carried out joint exercises with Finland and Sweden in the Baltic. Niinisto warned that the increased military activity could cause problems and added that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had told him not to be concerned by the joint exercise with China.
"We have to be very careful that this huge training, huge military trafficking ... does not cause any accidents or problems because we know from accidents might grow whatever," Niinisto said, according to Reuters.
The U.S. Air Force confirmed on Aug. 24 that it will assume control of an air policing mission over the Baltic in September. F-15 aircraft will lead the mission from a base in Lithuania, Defense Tech reported.
Lithuania's Ministry of Defense announced on Aug. 21 that NATO aircraft intercepted Russian spy planes over the Baltic on three separate occasions in a two-day period. Putin has defended such flights, arguing that they are no different than patrols carried out by U.S. fighter jets.
Trump emphasized that the U.S. would respond to any challenge.
"I would consider many countries threats but these are all threats that we'll be able to handle if we have to," added Trump. "Hopefully, we won't have to handle them, but if we do, we will handle them."
Since coming to office, Trump has sought to improve ties with Moscow, but his attempts have been hampered by ongoing investigations into alleged Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election.
"I hope that we do have good relations with Russia," he added. "I say it loud and clear, I have been saying it for years. I think it's a good thing if we have great relationships, or at least good relationships, with Russia."
Trump noted that improved relations would be beneficial for world peace.
Sources: The Hill, Reuters, Defense Tech, Newsweek / Featured Image: Repmobrooks/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: World Economic Forum/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons, Sean Spicer/Twitter via Wikimedia Commons