President Biden approves Baltic reinforcements

United States President Joe Biden on February 22 announced that the U.S. would reinforce its military contribution to the defense of the Baltic states as part of its package of responses to Russia's illegal actions in Ukraine. 

Speaking at a White House briefing in which he outlined the U.S. and allied response, President Biden said (see video below):

"The United States will continue to provide defensive assistance to Ukraine... and we'll continue to reinforce and reassure our NATO allies. Today, in response to Russia's admission that it will not withdraw its forces from Belarus, I have authorized additional movements of U.S. forces and equipment already stationed in Europe, to strengthen our Baltic allies Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

"Let me be clear. These are totally defensive moves on our part. We have no intention of fighting Russia. We want to send an unmistakable message, though: that the United States together with our allies will defend every inch of NATO territory and abide by the commitments we made to NATO." 

 

His statement did not go into detail about the size of the Baltic military reinforcement nor the types of units involved.

Biden also promised that "We will continue to escalate sanctions if Russia escalates," and gave a long list of recent Russian troop and equipment movements, including the positioning of blood banks near the Ukrainian border. 

"You don't need blood unless you're planning on starting a war," President Biden said. "None of us will be fooled. There is no justification."

 

Latvian Minister of Defense Artis Pabriks was quick to welcome news of the imminent deployments.

"We appreciate the leadership of the United States in this extremely tense security situation, in its decision to send additional forces and military equipment to Latvia, taking into account the escalation of the Russian military in Donbas and the concentration of Russian forces in Belarus. The decision of the United States confirms the commitment of our strategic partner to Latvia and the unwavering commitment to the guarantees of NATO Article 5," Pabriks said. 

"At the same time, the support of the United States does not diminish our obligation to continue the work we have begun to strengthen our national defensive capabilities and the general readiness and resilience of Latvian society, because our support will be as strong as our own desire to protect our country and people. Therefore, I call on the Saeima and the government to agree as soon as possible on increasing the defense budget to 2.5% of GDP,” Pabriks added. 

"The presence of US forces, together with our contribution to strengthening the combat capabilities of the National Armed Forces and the development of a comprehensive national defense system, is crucial for Latvia to deter Russia from further aggression and to prevent a recurrence of the tragic pages of our history."

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