NATO's Stoltenberg: "We can easily reinforce Latvia"

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is paying a visit to Latvia June 19 and used the occasion to insist the alliance had a highly effective defensive system in place. 

Stoltenberg visited Adazi military base for a ceremony marking the official welcome for Canadian troops who are leading the multinational battalion stationed in the country to deter potential Russian aggression.

A press conference at Adazi saw the Secretary General standing alongside Latvian Defense Minister Raimonds Bergmanis, President Raimonds Vejonis and Canadian defense minister Harjit Sajjan.

Vejonis said the launch of the battalion was a "Very historic day" that underlined "Nato's ability to react to new threats" to "ensure peace and stability in our region."

The numbers of troops stationed in each of the Baltic states was not large, so no-one could claim they were a threat to Russia, he added.

For his part, Stoltenberg made it clear that Nato unity was more than a piece of paper.

"These forces send a very clear message: Nato stands as one…to defend our alliance and deter aggression. They are proof of the enduring strength of the transatlantic bond," he said, while adding that dialogue with Russia remained important.

Bergmanis stressed the track record of Latvian troops fighting alongside other Nato soldiers in places such as Afghanistan and explicitly spoke of the precedent set by "Russia's invasion of Ukraine."

This nato commitment clearly demoinstrates cohesion and resolve

"We will be ready to respond effectively and consistently to any posible aggression... Together we will defend our people, our country and our values," Bergmanis stated.

NATO demonstrates its commitment to defend every member and the values whereon our Alliance is based, @Vejonis welcoming #eFP pic.twitter.com/PoBARtgO4t

— Valsts prezidents (@Rigas_pils) June 19, 2017

He was echoed by Sajjan who declared that Canada was proud to lead the battlegroup in Latvia and that would provide an opportunity for soldiers to train together as well as demonstrating that "Nato stands as one."

Minister Sajjan: "Canada is extremely proud to be leading the Battlegroup here in Latvia" | #WeAreAllies #WeAreNATO #eFP 🇨🇦🇱🇻🇦🇱🇪🇸🇮🇹🇵🇱🇸🇮 pic.twitter.com/FFSWx9djyI

— Canada at NATO (@CanadaNATO) June 19, 2017

Asked if troop numbers might be increased during September's Zapad military exercises in Russia and Ukraine, which will see tens of thousands of Russian troops near the alliance's eastern border, Stoltenberg said it was not necessary.

"There will be times with exercises when we can see more troops, but we dont plan to increase the numbers of troops as part of the battlegroup... We don't see any imminent threat against any NATO ally, including Latvia. The battlegroup in Latvia is part of a bigger picture…. We can easily reinforce Latvia and other countries quickly... If there is a need for reinforcements, NATO can reinforce very quickly," Stoltenberg said.

"What we have seen is a more assertive Russia. We have seen a significant military buildup in the Baltic region and we have seen Russia being willing to use force against neighbors, as we have seen in Georgia and Uktraine. We will of course follow and monitor closely the Russian exercise Zapad. We call upon Russia to be transparent with the Zapad exercise," Stoltenberg added, suggesting that a meeting of the Nato-Russia council would be called to discuss the matter.

On Tuesday 20 June, Stoltenberg carries on to visit Lithuania to attend the Distinguished Visitors’ Day of Exercise Iron Wolf alongside Dalia Grybauskaitė.

 

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