RIGA - Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks (Development/For) today met with representatives of the US Congress Don Bacon, Ruben Gallego and Sara Jacobs and urged them to increase US military assistance to Latvia.
The officials met to discuss the current geopolitical situation in light of Russia's war in Ukraine, Latvian-US bilateral defense cooperation and the need to bolster NATO's eastern flank, LETA was told at the Defense Ministry.
During the conversation, the Latvian minister underlined the necessity to provide all possible support to Ukraine and indicated that Russia's war in Ukraine will determine the long-term future of Europe or even transatlantic future.
Pabriks called on not to underestimate Russia as it is learning from its mistakes. The Latvian minister also voiced concerns that not all Western countries are providing sufficient support to Ukraine.
Pabriks asserted Latvia's readiness to defend itself and also stressed the necessity to bolster the defense of NATO's eastern flank. The minister urged the US to back increasing NATO's enhanced Forward Presence battalions to brigade-size units and to expand the US's military assistance to Latvia by stepping up presence of its armed forces, including by deploying military capabilities and providing financing for boosting Latvia's defense capabilities.
According to the Defense Ministry's information, the US congressmen supported the Latvian minister's position and informed him that work is ongoing to provide additional support to the Baltic states.
There are currently around 1,000 US troops deployed in Latvia. They are stationed in Latvia on a rotational basis, ensuring deterrence and taking part in military exercises alongside Latvian and other allied soldiers, including in Latvia's annual Namejs maneuvers, which this year take place from April 18 to May 27.
The US Congress has approved a 1.5-billion-dollar budget package which among other things includes 180 million dollars' worth of security aid to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 2022 in the framework of the separately established Baltic Security Initiative with the aid sum being larger by over 10 million dollars compared with 2021.
US security aid has enabled Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to complete their military infrastructure and capability-building projects more rapidly than planned. The main focus has been on special operations, air defense, ammunition stockpiles and maritime situational awareness. As a new priority, the Baltic states want to jointly develop their long-distance indirect fire capability with US support.
In addition to US security aid, the presence of US armed forces in the Baltic Sea region has grown significantly. The United States' boost to the region includes F-35 fighter jets, AH-64 attack helicopters, Patriot air defense systems and deployment of troops in the Baltic Sea region. Immediately after hostilities intensified in Ukraine, three US F-35 stealth fighters and other aircraft arrived at the Amari Air Base, Estonia.