On Monday, Latvia’s defense minister called for a permanent US military presence in the Baltic state and said Riga wants to boost its defense with US Patriot surface-to-air missiles.
“We need additional international assistance,” Defense Minister Artis Pabriks told Reuters. “We would like to have a permanent United States presence in our country. And sea and air defense means basically going down to such systems as Patriot.”
Pabriks’ comments come ahead of the NATO Foreign Ministerial that Latvia is hosting on Tuesday and Wednesday. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due to arrive in Latvia late Monday. There, Blinken is expected to consult with NATO on the alleged Russian troop build-up near Ukraine. A State Department official said Friday that “all options” are on the table for how to respond to Russia’s alleged build-up.
Since Latvia borders Russia, a permanent US presence in the country would be viewed as a significant provocation in Moscow. Over the past few years, the US has deployed troops to Latvia on a rotational basis, and NATO frequently holds military exercises in the country.
Latvia is not the only country in the region asking for more of a US and NATO military presence. Last week, Ukraine’s prime minister called for a “constant” presence of NATO warships in the Black Sea, and Poland’s president called for more troops to be deployed to Poland and the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.