More than 100 pieces of military equipment were being unloaded throughout the day at the Port of Riga with some set to stay in the country and some due to be transported to Estonia and Lithuania.
Among the equipment being unloaded were Abrams main battle tanks, the flexible Bradley Fighting Vehicle and Scout military Humvees.
Overseeing the operation, Major General John R O'Connor of 21st Theater Sustainment Command said the hardware would stay “for as long as required to deter Russian aggression.”
“Our purpose here is to demonstrate resolve against the aggression of Russian forces violating sovereignty of other territories that do not belong to Russia, fully recognizing that we will demonstrate our full potential and capabilities that we bring on this rotational force,” O'Connor said.
“In Latvia we'll have six tanks, six Bradleys, all the supporting equipment that will come in... and then we will work collectively with the Latvians and other NATO partners that decide to come to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland in order to demonstrate how we can better work together on our ability to extend our operational reach across borders.
“We'll share that armor formation across six states as well as extend operations down into Bulgaria and Romania this year bringing in our multinational formations. The 173rd out of Italy will begin operations in the Black Sea region.
“What we're demonstrating is a unified front from the north to the south – a line so that we can exercise together and demonstrate our resolve against Russia,” O'Connor added, explaining that the military hardware would be left in place while different forces rotated to use it on a regular basis, with the 3rd Infantry replacing the 2nd Cavalry in the next rotation over coming weeks .
The net result would be to “demonstrate resolve to President Putin and Russia that collectively we can come together,” O'Connor said.
Welcoming the new arrivals, Latvian Defence Minister Raimonds Vejonis told journalists: “This will further help to ensure the security of all three Baltic states and demonstrates solidarity with our fellow NATO members.”
Also dockside was Riga mayor Nils Ušakovs whose Harmony political party has a cooperation agreement with Vladimir Putin's United Russia party. While welcoming the arrival of the US forces and the chance for Latvian troops to improve their training, Usakovs said he had no intention of cancelling that agreement despite O'Connor's broadside against President Putin.
“Different people have different degrees of emotion when they talk about events between the West and Russia,” Ušakovs said.