Latvian president says NATO troop presence needed in Baltics permanently

Latvian President Egils Levits on Sunday said NATO should establish more permanent bases in the Baltic region and called for a permanent U.S. troop presence in the area.

CNN’s “State of the Union” co-host Dana Bash asked Levits on Sunday if he believed a permanent international base was needed in Latvia, a member of NATO, for the country to protect itself against future Russian invasion.

“Absolutely,” said Levits. “NATO should strengthen the NATO eastern flank, the Baltics, Poland, Romania, so that this would be a strong signal to Moscow that NATO is ready to defend the member states. I welcome also the American troops in Poland, in Baltics. And we need a permanent presence of American troops in this area. I think it is a response to the Russian ideas on aggression beyond Ukraine.”

Bash asked Levits if he was concerned that Putin would next target Latvia, a former Soviet state, noting the two countries share a 130-mile border.

“Latvia is member of NATO. And NATO is the strongest military alliance in the world; 800 million people live in NATO states. And the — NATO has the biggest military potential in the world, much more bigger as Russia,” Levits said.

“But we know that the aggression against Ukraine is not only aggression against a state, but, in the same time, aggression against the West, against the Western values. And Ukraine is now fighting, fighting for Western values,” he added.

Following discussions with U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken last week, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvič was asked during a press call whether establishing a permanent deployment of U.S. troops in Latvia had been discussed.

“We discussed the matter of how to reinforce the presence of NATO forces and also of the United States as part of NATO here in the region. And I underscored that I would like to have permanent solutions to this thing. This situation is developing,” Rinkēvičs said.

However, Blinken indicated openness to the discussions but said no decisions had been made. 

“When it comes to questions such as permanent basing, these questions come up and we’ll certainly look to answer them in the context of doing the review of our of our posture. But just to be very clear, no, there’s no decision of that kind,” he said.

Tags Antony Blinken Antony Blinken Baltic states Dana Bash Egils Egils Levits Latvia NATO Post-Soviet states Russia–NATO relations Ukraine–NATO relations

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