U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin confirms Baltic ministers commitment to defend all NATO Allies
On February 19, in Vilnius, Lithuania Latvia’s Defence Minister Artis Pabriks, Estonia’s Defence Minister Kalle Laanet and Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis held joint meeting with the U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin III to discuss the current security situation in the Baltic region in the context of Russia's military activities in Ukraine and near its borders.
“L. Austin confirmed that the U.S. highly values its commitment to its Allies, including the Baltic States, and will continue to support the region. During the conversation, I emphasized that Russia will not change and that we must be able to adapt by strengthening the region's defence. The U.S. troop presence along with additional investments to strengthen capabilities in Latvia and the other Baltic States is crucial for our defence and further deterrence of Russia. Russia understands only a strict and decisive policy,” A. Pabriks emphasized.
During the conversation Latvia’s Defence Minister thanked the U.S. for its support so far and the current policy of exposing Russia's intentions in Ukraine, as well as for the contribution to strengthening the Eastern Flank.
“We have been watching Russia’s buildup of military forces in and near Ukraine and Belarus with increasing concern. President Biden has been clear that there will be severe consequences for Russia if it further invades Ukraine. Any Russian attack or further incursion into Ukraine would not only ignite conflict, it would also violate the bedrock principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and self-determination. The buildup of Russian forces in Belarus is especially troubling. These forces pose a further threat to Ukraine and increase regional tensions,” L. Austin said.
L. Austin thanked the Baltic States for decision to provide defensive weapons like “Stinger” anti-aircraft missiles and “Javelins” anti-armor missiles to Ukraine so it can better defend itself. The U.S. Secretary of Defence also expressed unity in supporting Ukraine and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to defend Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and all NATO Allies against aggression. The U.S. takes Article 5 obligations seriously, and their commitment to NATO and collective defense is ironclad.