On April 4, NATO will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its existence, marking 2019 as an anniversary of NATO in Latvia and throughout the Alliance.
Latvia's path to participation in the alliance was launched immediately after the restoration of independence in the early 1990s in full realization that the task would be a long and demanding one but that the reward - an unequivocal rebuttal of the lingering claim that the Baltics were part of Russia's "sphere of influence" - would be worth it.
As time has passed and Russia's actions have become aggressive in Georgia and Ukraine, the wisdom of NATO accession is now self-evident.
At the same time, Latvia's contribution to collective defense of the Alliance is also essential. Taking care of its security and being a responsible ally, Latvia participates in various NATO operations, provides the necessary host nation support to Allied soldiers in Latvia, and commits to investing at least 2% of GDP on defense, one of only a handful of NATO members to do so.
Recent years have seen Latvia contributing brainpower as well as military muscle, too. Among those marking the occasion was Jānis Sārts, head of the Rīga-based NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence (STRATCOMCOE) which is quickly developing a reputation as an influential and innovative research center on issues of real relevance in both the military and civilian spheres.
Congratulations, Latvia 15 years in NATO. I am proud of my small role in making it happen. In retrospect I see , we used window of opportunity to join. It might have been impossible some uears later. Lesson? Recognize & use windows of opportunity, they might not be there forever.— Jānis Sārts (@janis_sarts) March 29, 2019
NATO's flag was also run up the flagpole outside the Foreign Ministry.
Atzīmējot 15 gadus kopš Latvijas pievienošanās Ziemeļatlantijas līguma organizācijai, pie @Arlietas tiek pacelts NATO karogs #LVNATO15 #WeAreNATO @LV_NATO @AizsardzibasMin @Latvijas_armija @Rigas_pils @Brivibas36 pic.twitter.com/zXWKgQEXQv— Ārlietu ministrija (@Arlietas) March 29, 2019
There were congratulations too from the US Embassy in Rīga.
Pirms 15 gadiem, Latvijas dalība NATO daudziem šķita neaizsniedzams mērķis. Bet ir 2019. gads un mēs esam lepni Latviju saukt par savu sabiedroto un partneri. Sveicam! #NATO70 ?? ?? pic.twitter.com/KpyhsSAV8B— US Embassy Riga (@USEmbassyRiga) March 29, 2019
Defense Minister Artis Pabriks also offered some thoughts, saying NATO membership had given Latvia security and suggesting that without it Latvia could find itself "in a situation comparable to Ukraine's".
Jau 15 gadus esam NATO dalībvalsts. Tas mums ir devis drošību un ticību sev un Latvijai. Paldies visiem tiem, kuri palīdzēja Latvijai kļūt par alianses dalībvalsti, jo bez dalības NATO Latvijas drošība šodien līdzinātos Ukrainas situācijai.— Artis Pabriks (@Pabriks) March 29, 2019