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Austin promises military training, aid to Baltics

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The Associated Press

Associated Press

Lolita C. Baldor

RIGA, Latvia (AP) — The United States is conducting more military exercises and training with Latvia and other Baltic states. trying to provide , Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Wednesday that the United States could bring in more troops from the United States if needed to strengthen the region against possible threats from Russia.

At a press conference with Latvian Defense Minister Aertis Public, Austin said plans for continued rotation of troops to the Baltic states were not a major concern for US forces in Romania and other parts of Europe. Although he said he would likely use troops from the Brigades, "We will also bring troops from the United States."

The U.S. Secretary of Defense visited Latvia in 2011, emphasizing the growing importance of Russia's westernmost Baltic states. They see a Russian invasion of Ukraine and fear they will be the next victims of Moscow's invasion. The Pentagon said the last Secretary of Defense to go to Latvia was his 1995 William Perry.

Public told reporters that his top priority is to obtain more enablers for the U.S. military, and that his troops are "struggling every day to defend his country." training". He added that Latvia also needs additional financial support from the United States to purchase new military equipment and strengthen its air and coastal defenses.

At this two-day conference in the Baltic capital, just hours' drive from the Russian border, Austin reiterated America's commitment to helping the region defend itself. He met with U.S. forces on Tuesday, including members of the Security Forces Assistance Brigade, which provides training to allies. He said Wednesday that he aims to keep SFAB in use in the Baltic region going forward.

Austin's visit came as the Russian war in Ukraine entered his sixth month. Russia continues to make slow but gradual progress, but is facing increasing counteroffensives by Ukrainian forces in the Russian-occupied territories in southern Ukraine. Fighting to stop the army.

A powerful explosion rocked a Russian air base in Crimea on Tuesday, sending clouds of smoke towering over the landscape as fighting could intensify.Russian Defense The ministry denied that the Saki base in the Black Sea had been shelled, instead saying that ammunition had been blown up.However, Ukrainian social networks were flooded with speculation that it had been hit by long-range missiles launched by Ukraine. was

In a series of rapid-fire meetings with top Latvian leaders, including President Egils Levitz, held at Riga Castle on Wednesday, Austin said he would stand with the Baltic region against any Russian aggression. He promised the unwavering commitment of the United States. His three Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, all former Soviet republics, were occupied and annexed by Joseph his Stalin during World War II. They gained independence with her 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, joined NATO in 2004, and came under the military protection of the United States and its Western allies.

"We will step up our rotational deployments in the region and strengthen training with our Baltic allies to further strengthen our credible combat posture in the region," it said. Austin met with Latvian Prime Minister Artur Krishanis Kalin at the Council of Ministers on Wednesday morning.

At a press conference, Public acknowledged his concerns about the threat from Russia's ally, neighboring Belarus. He said he does not consider Belarus to be an independent state and is only part of Russia. He said Latvia is routinely concerned about threats along its borders and is closely monitoring them.

, sent an additional 20,000 US troops to Europe to shift the focus of its forces to the east of the alliance. That's more than 100 people in the country.

In March, shortly after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, NATO began to explore how best to strengthen its defenses in the east, from Estonia in the north through Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. rice field. To Bulgaria and Romania on the Black Sea.

"On land, our new posture requires significantly more forces in the eastern part of the alliance, readiness and prepositioning with more equipment and supplies," said NATO Secretary General Jens. Stoltenberg said at the time."In the air, we will strengthen Allied air forces and strengthen our combined air and missile defenses." There he and Public met with American and Latvian forces. Standing in a hangar with Black's Hawk helicopter in the background, Public told Austin and his men flatly, "If anything happens at the border, I'm ready to die."

Austin told the public and the military, "If anything happens, and if... Latvia's sovereign territory is called into question or challenged, we will be partners."

After Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in 2014, NATO began deploying troops on its eastern flank.

Now, according to NATO, hundreds of thousands of troops are on high alert, his 100,000 troops in America are in Europe, and 40,000 are under direct NATO command. , supported by about 150 ships and an equal number of aircraft.

Austin's visit comes as Latvia moves to strengthen its defenses and the country's president eyes plans to restore voluntary conscription for men and women. is also performed. The draft could be reintroduced next year after a hiatus of more than 15 years.