Lithuania's foreign minister says his government wants a NATO battalion deployed permanently in the country as a "security guarantee" — not a provocation against Russia which has stepped up military action in the Baltic states.

Linas Linkevicius said in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press that Lithuania's relations with Russia are "not simple, not easy," but he expressed hope that the two countries can have "normal relations" in the future.

The three Baltic States — Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — are former Soviet republics that are now members of NATO and the EU. They have been alarmed by Moscow's intervention in Ukraine and increasing activity by Russian forces in the Baltic Sea.

Linkevicius insisted that Lithuania's request for 700-800 NATO troops is "not an escalation of tensions" with Russia.