Latvia Requests Permanent U.S. Aid Amidst Worries About Russia

Latvia has requested permanent U.S. aid at its border with Russia, including U.S. Patriot Missiles, according to Defense Minister Arkis Pabriks on November 29th. NATO met amongst its 29 parties in Latvia’s capital Riga on Tuesday, with attendees including the NATO’s Chief and U.S. Secretary of Defense Antony Blinken. The alliance has become aware of a Russian military build-up amongst Ukrainian borders. Around 1500 troops were rehearsing in the Latvian woodlands with camouflage, tanks, and live rounds. They are preparing to defend Riga from a potential attack from the North. 

“We need additional international assistance,” “We would like to have a permanent United States presence in our country. And sea and air defence means going down to such systems as Patriot,” said Arkis Pabriks, according to Reuters. Last year, Pabriks announced intent to pay to house American troops within Latvian borders should Trump follow through with plans to pull out of Germany. According to the Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John Benson heading NATO forces in Latvia, “deterrence is critical.”

Ever since the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014 and its support for eastern Ukrainian separatists, Nato has deployed multinational battalion-sized battlegroups to defend Poland and the Baltic states: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. In May of 2021, Russia moved up to 100,000 troops to the Ukrainian border, marking the highest number since the annexation of Crimea. According to officials, there was another build-up this month. The Baltic states are seen as the most vulnerable part of the NATO alliance due to their proximity to Russia. There is a gap between Poland and Lithuania called the Suwalki Gap. Military officers warn Russia might try to capture via Belarus, which would allow for a land corridor to Kaliningrad, a heavily armed military enclave. However, Russia continuously reiterates that it has no intention of invading any of these countries and counter accuses NATO of destabilizing Europe by moving troops through the Baltics and near the former Soviet capital. 

The remnants of Cold War tensions between NATO and the former Soviet Union have yet to subside completely. It is important that despite all of the American and Russian-backed military presence in various countries, that deterrence does not escalate into violence as in the Crimean invasion of 2014. Peace talks between the United States and Russia, both primary actors in the region, will be critical to smoothly deescalating tensions as troops are now being moved to the Baltic Region and their Russian borders.