RIGA - Latvian Defense Minister Raimonds Bergmanis (Greens/Farmers) during his meeting with US Defense Secretary James Mattis has received confirmation that the US will continue to support development of the armed forces of the Baltic states, including Latvia, Bergmanis said in a phone conversation with BNS from Lithuania.
Mattis in a press conference in Vilnius on Wednesday, after his meeting with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, announced that the US was ready to deploy defense systems in the Baltic states to deter Russia.
Bergmanis said that he does not know any details in relation to Mattis’ statement as the ministers during the meeting did not discuss such issues. "During talks we discussed cooperation among the three Baltic states. He confirmed that the US will be present and ready to help in development of our armed forces. Mattis is aware of how complicated the situation is in the Baltic states, but noted that we are those countries that are approaching defense budgets at 2 percent of GDP. Estonia has already done it," Bergmanis said.
Bergmanis reminded that there are several projects in defense development underway between Latvia and the US, and the US keeps investing in development of the National Armed Forces. Also, presence of the US troops in Latvia continues to strengthen the Baltic security.
"The US support in infrastructure development, training process, purchase of weapons is essential," the minister said.
As reported, Mattis’ first official visit to the Baltic states is aimed at demonstrating the US new administration's commitment to the security of the Baltic states amid concerns over Russia's foreign policies.
In response to Russia's intervention in Ukraine, NATO is this year stationing an international battalion, consisting of about 1,000 troops, in each of the Baltic states and Poland. In the framework of a separate operation, a US brigade with 3,500 troops and nearly 100 tanks has been stationed in the region.