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Austin Says Latvia Is a Valued NATO Partner

Latvia has quickly become a valued partner of NATO and the United States, said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, who today hosted an enhanced honor cordon and meeting to welcome Latvian Defense Minister Inara Murniece to the Pentagon.

A man and a woman stand next to each other on the steps of the Pentagon during a ceremony.
Pentagon Meeting
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III stands with Latvian Defense Minister Ināra Mūrniece during the rendering of honors and playing of each country's national anthem prior to a bilateral exchange meeting at the Pentagon, April 13, 2023.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jack Sanders
VIRIN: 230413-D-XI929-1001

Latvia and the U.S. had productive discussions at the Ukraine Defense Contact Group and the NATO defense ministers' meeting in February, Austin said, adding that he also had a great trip to Latvia in August. 

This is a crucial time for European security, Austin said. For more than a year, Russia has waged a war of unprovoked aggression in Ukraine, including against civilians and civilian infrastructure.

"The Ukrainian people have responded with incredible courage. The United States and our allies and partners have committed ourselves to supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes," he said.

The secretary also said Latvia has shown tremendous leadership in providing security assistance.

Soldiers pose for a photo.
Pose for a Picture
Latvian soldiers pose for a photo during a night infiltration exercise in Lielvarde, Latvia, March 25, 2023.
Photo By: Army Spc. Kevin T. Brown Jr., Army National Guard
VIRIN: 230325-Z-OV580-1356

"You are among the top contributors of military assistance to Ukraine, relative to the size of your economy," he said, noting that Latvia has donated more than 1% of its gross domestic product to help Ukraine fight Russian aggression. 

"You've reminded us that all countries of all sizes can make a big difference in standing up for what's right, Austin said.

The secretary also commended Latvia for its investment in its own defense capabilities, including finalizing major procurements of missiles and multiple launch rocket systems.  

"These investments are crucial for your security and for NATO's collective defense and deterrence," he said.

The U.S. will maintain a persistent presence of forces in the Baltics through regular rotations. "The United States remains fully committed to Latvia's defense and to Article 5," he said, referring to NATO's commitment to collective defense if any member is attacked.

Soldiers hang in the air from a helicopter.
Hoist Op
U.S. soldiers conduct a hoist operation from an HH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a NATO exercise in Adazi, Latvia, March 29, 2023. The soldiers are assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, supporting the 4th Infantry Division.
Photo By: Army Sgt. John Schoebel, Army National Guard
VIRIN: 230329-Z-SV327-2061

Murniece said the U.S. is a valued partner and she emphasized the importance of enduring support for Ukraine. 

The defense minister noted that Latvia spends 2.3% of its GDP for its own defense. 

She said she looks forward to today's discussions.

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