Kosovo asks U.S. for permanent military base, speedier NATO membership

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo has asked the United States to establish a permanent military base in the country and speed up its integration into NATO after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Kosovo's Defence Minister Armend Mehaj said on Sunday.

The United States has already 635 soldiers in the Balkan country to maintain the fragile peace as part of a NATO peacekeeping mission.

"Accelerating Kosovo's membership in NATO and having a permanent base of American forces is an immediate need to guarantee peace, security and stability in the Western Balkans," Mehaj said on his Facebook page.

Kosovo has joined other countries in introducing sanctions against Russia. Mehaj has said that his government was ready to offer help for any military operation to Ukraine, should that be asked for by Washington.

Kosovo's 2008 independence is recognised by more than 110 countries, mainly Western nations, but not by Serbia or its traditional ally Russia. Four NATO members also refuse to recognise Kosovo's independence.

Kosovo is still not a United Nations member over objections from Russia.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Daria Sito-Sucic and Alison Williams)