Mūrniece talks HIMARS with Austin at the Pentagon

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Thursday, April 13 saw Latvian Minister of Defense Ināra Mūrniece meeting with the Secretary of Defense of the United States, Lloyd J. Austin III at the Pentagon.

Discussing the security situation in the region and Ukraine, the two officials agreed that Russia's brutal war in Ukraine will have global and far-reaching consequences.

"Latvia and the USA will continue to provide Ukraine with all possible support in order to facilitate Ukraine's victory in the fight with Russia for its country and the right to decide its own future. We must not allow the international community to get used to the war in Ukraine and get tired of this war. It is in the interests of the entire democratic world to achieve a complete victory for Ukraine and the defeat of Russia, because only this will allow the restoration of a rules-based world order in the long term and ensure long-term peace in our part of the world," Mūrniece said, according to a Defense Ministry account of the meeting.

The U.S. Department of Defense's account quotes Austin saying:

"I had a great trip to Latvia last August, and so it's a real pleasure to be able to host you here at the Pentagon, and really, thank you for coming. I have to say, Madam Minister, you've quickly become a valued partner. We've had productive discussions at the Ukraine Defense Contact Group and at the NATO Defense Ministerial in February. And so now, we're meeting at a crucial time for European security."

"Now, Latvia has shown tremendous leadership in providing security assistance to Ukraine, and you are among the top -- top contributors of military assistance to Ukraine relative to the size of your economy. You've reminded us of that a couple of times, and that's been very highly-motivating. But Latvia has donated more than one percent of its GDP to helping Ukraine fight Russian aggression, and you've reminded us as well that all -- countries of all sizes can make a big difference in standing up for what's right."

Austin also praised Latvia's decision to buy coastal defense missiles and Multiple-Launch Rocket Systems and said the U.S. "will maintain a persistent presence of U.S. forces in the Baltics through regular rotations."

"Latvia continues to move forward with rapid steps to strengthen the military capabilities of our armed forces. We are in the final stages of signing an agreement with the U.S. for the acquisition of coastal defense systems, after receiving approval from the U.S. Congress. It is a real pleasure that on the Latvian side we have currently completed the work on all the documentation required for the purchase of the HIMARS missile artillery system. The next step at the moment is the preparation and signing of the contract itself," said Mūrniece.

Mūrniece also emphasized the need for greater NATO involvement in the defense of the Baltic airspace and spoke of the intention to strengthen Latvia's air defense capabilities by purchasing medium-range air defense systems in the near future.

During the meeting, the officials also discussed the priorities of the USA and Latvia at the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius this summer, as well as opportunities to develop military-industrial cooperation.

Mūrniece is visiting the USA on a working visit from April 13 to April 15.

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