Riga, October 29, 2014
This is my first visit to Latvia, and I am already very impressed with your hospitality and the beauty and history of Riga. I am also impressed with the seriousness of your commitment to NATO and its ideals of freedom, human rights, free market economies, democracy, and collective security.
Minister Vejonis and I just had an excellent discussion. I congratulated him on the unanimous vote in the Saeima in July to raise defense spending to the NATO target of 2% of GDP by 2020, and I thanked him for the tremendous work Latvian soldiers have been doing in Afghanistan and will continue as part of the NATO Resolute Support Mission.
We talked about the ongoing implementation of the NATO Readiness Action Plan, which recognizes that not all of your neighbors share our vision of a Europe whole, free, and at peace, and better positions NATO to address possible threats to Europe. We also discussed Russia’s unacceptable aggression in Ukraine, and the United States stands resolutely with Latvia and our Baltic allies in support of the Ukrainian people and the Poroshenko government. As long as Russia continues on this dark path, it will face increasing political and economic isolation.
Later today I look forward to meeting with Foreign Minister Rinkevics and with the Policy Directors from Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia to share ideas of how we can build on the strong defense relationship the United States has with our NATO allies here in the Baltic region.
I am particularly looking forward to my visit to Adazi training area tomorrow morning, where I will visit joint training with Latvian soldiers and the troops deployed here from the First Cavalry Division. We have had American soldiers here in Latvia on a rotational basis since April of this year as one aspect of Operation Atlantic Resolve, along with additional U.S. fighter aircraft [in the sky] and warships in the Baltic Sea. We will continue to rotate troops to Latvia, as well as Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland for as long as conditions warrant it. The deployments to the region have been a great opportunity for our soldiers to gain experience training with our very capable Baltic allies, to build on the interoperability we have developed by serving and fighting together in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to demonstrate the rock-solid commitment of the United States and NATO to the territorial defense of all NATO members under Article Five of the Washington Treaty.