America’s top military official has sought to reassure Latvia that the U.S. and the NATO defense alliance stand ready to defend the Baltic republics.
In an Oct. 21 meeting with Latvian officials in Rīga, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it is important for NATO to recognize what the alliance means and the responsibilities and obligations that go with it, according to the American Forces Press Service.
Mullen noted that the Baltic republics remain nervous following Russia’s invasion of Georgia in August. Russia has since pulled its forces out of Georgia proper, but is maintaining a presence in the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia—both of which Russia has recognized as independent states.
“One of the reasons I am here is to send a very visible message of reassurance,” Mullen said during a press conference with Latvian President Valdis Zatlers.
“All of us are concerned by the recent invasion into Georgia of Russia,” Mullen said. “In my past experience in NATO, I’ve always tried to understand the views of the Baltic (republics) because of the history and how they view what has happened.”
Mullen also met with Foreign Minister Māris Riekstiņš and Defense Minister Vinets Veldre.
“Our military cooperation with the United States will become closer,” Veldre said in a statement issued after the meeting.
Mullen noted that NATO aircraft patrol Baltic airspace, a duty currently being handled by U.S. Air Force jets based in England.
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