US Se­na­tors: NATO’s role in Baltics is more im­por­tant than ever be­fore

Baltic News Network - - Front Page -

United States of Amer­ica will con­tinue pro­vid­ing mil­i­tary sup­port to Baltic States by en­sur­ing troop ro­ta­tion and fi­nan­cial sup­port. US Congress re­tains strong co­op­er­a­tion with Baltics, as con­firmed by US Se­na­tors dur­ing their meet­ing with Saeima speaker Inara Murniece.

On Wed­nes­day, 28 De­cem­ber, US Repub­li­can Party se­na­tors John McCain, Lind­sey Gra­ham and Demo­cratic Party’s se­na­tor Amy Klobuchar ar­rived in Latvia to meet with Saeima rep­re­sen­ta­tives and lead­ing state of­fi­cials to dis­cuss im­por­tant pub­lic mat­ters and de­ter­mine the fu­ture of US sup­port in Baltics.

Lat­vian For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Edgars Rinke­vics also met with se­na­tors. Dur­ing the dis­cus­sion, both sides em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of strate­gic part­ner­ship be­tween Latvia and USA and ex­pressed sup­port to the cur­rent re­gional se­cu­rity pol­icy and planned steps for the en­hance­ment of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the EU and NATO.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the US Se­nate wel­comed Latvia’s com­mit­ment to in­crease its de­fence bud­get and the coun­try’s con­tri­bu­tion to the en­hance­ment of in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity and the al­lied oper­a­tion in Afghanistan. Both sides em­pha­sized that it is nec­es­sary to con­tinue co­op­er­a­tion and search for new so­lu­tions for the re­gion’s se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion and Euro-At­lantic space.

Saeima speaker Inara Murniece thanked USA for its con­se­quent sup­port for Latvia – both on the road to­wards restora­tion of in­de­pen­dence and ef­forts to over­come many dif­fer­ent se­cu­rity chal­lenges, in­clud­ing the ones com­ing from Krem­lin and its hy­brid war threats. Saeima’s del­e­ga­tion and US se­na­tors ex­pressed unan­i­mous sup­port in favour of co­op­er­a­tion to com­bat those threats. Se­na­tors men­tioned that Latvia has al­ready made steps to op­pose cy­ber threats by cre­at­ing cy­ber se­cu­rity cen­tre.

Murniece em­pha­sized that the visit of US se­na­tors took place in a time when the ne­ces­sity to co­op­er­ate and ex­change opin­ions in­creases. Lat­vian Pres­i­dent Rai­monds Ve­jo­nis re­minded that NATO sum­mit in War­saw re­sulted in im­por­tant de­ci­sions in re­gards to the pres­ence of al­lied forces in Baltics and Poland. The Amer­i­can del­e­ga­tion af­firmed their readi­ness to con­tinue ac­tive ex­change of opin­ions, as BNN was in­formed by the press-ser­vice of the State Pres­i­dent’s Chan­cellery.

Saeima’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives em­pha­sized Latvia’s ac­com­plish­ments in strength­en­ing its de­fen­sive ca­pa­bil­i­ties, in­clud­ing the com­mit­ment to in­crease de­fence bud­get to 2% of GDP in 2018. Se­na­tors said the role NATO plays in the re­gion is more im­por­tant than ever be­fore.

«The visit of US se­na­tors to Latvia of­fers a great op­por­tu­nity for the Amer­i­can side to view Latvia’s com­mit­ment to its du­ties as NATO mem­ber state and its own se­cu­rity. On be­half of Latvia, I em­pha­size our coun­try’s com­mit­ment to se­cure all du­ties in re­la­tion to the pres­ence of al­lied forces in the coun­try,» – Ve­jo­nis said.

Ve­jo­nis also af­firmed that Latvia in­tends to form close co­op­er­a­tion with the new US State Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Congress. He also re­minded that the pres­ence of Amer­i­can troops in Baltics is im­mensely im­por­tant in a sym­bolic and prac­ti­cal sense: «USA is and re­mains our strate­gic part­ner for se­cu­rity, de­fence and NATO co­op­er­a­tion.»

De­fence Min­is­ter Rai­monds Bergma­nis and Na­tional Armed Forces Com­man­der Rai­monds Graube met with US se­na­tors and ex­pressed con­fi­dence that Latvia proved it­self as a strong NATO mem­ber state and a strate­gic part­ner to USA in the ap­proval of the 2017 bud­get.

The min­is­ter and US se­na­tors agreed on the mat­ter of grow­ing threats and mil­i­tary ac­tiv­ity com­ing from Rus­sia.

Se­na­tor McCain voiced con­fi­dent sup­port to Latvia on be­half of USA as a strate­gic part­ner to fur­ther en­hance Latvia’s de­fen­sive ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Au­thor: Evija Tri­fanova/LETA

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