Austin Underscores NATO Unity in Meeting With Latvia's Defense Minister

  • Published
  • By Joseph Clark
  • DOD News

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III underscored the United States' commitment to stand alongside its NATO allies against Russian aggression during a meeting with Latvian Defense Minister Andris Spruds today.

The secretary commended his counterpart for Latvia's continued assistance in helping Ukraine defend against Russian President Vladimir Putin's ongoing invasion of Ukraine and urged all allies to remain steadfast in their support.

"You're here at a vital time for European security and global security," Austin said as he welcomed Spruds to the Pentagon. "Two years ago, Putin launched his all-out invasion of Ukraine. He assumed Ukraine's friends will give in, when instead we still stand strong against Putin's aggression. And together, we're helping Ukraine fight back against the Kremlin's war of choice." 

 "We must not let up," he said.  

The two leaders met following Tuesday's announcement that the Defense Department would provide an additional round of military aid to Ukraine valued at up to $300 million to support the country's immediate air defense and antitank requirements.

The aid package, sourced through presidential drawdown authority, is the first to be approved this year. It was made possible after the Army negotiated a lower price for supplies already sent to Ukraine.  

The latest round of U.S. assistance comes amid continued negotiations on Capitol Hill over President Joe Biden's request to Congress to continue critical funding for military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine.       

In a move that has yet to pass in the House, the Senate last month approved a supplemental funding measure that would include additional funds for Ukraine security assistance. In addition, it would provide urgent support for Israel following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas terrorists and humanitarian support for Palestinian civilians in Gaza.   

The measure would also provide additional resources for U.S. Central Command to deter attacks by Iranian-backed militia groups and protect vessels operating in the Red Sea from attacks by Houthi rebels. It would also provide critical funds needed to bolster U.S. deterrence in the Indo-Pacific.

Defense officials have continued to underscore the urgent national security imperative for approving the funding.  

"We urgently need Congress to pass DOD supplemental requests," said Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder at Tuesday's news briefing announcing the latest round of assistance. 

Ryder said the PDA package, while providing urgent capabilities to Ukraine's forces, is not nearly enough. "And the only way to meet Ukraine's battlefield needs is for Congress to swiftly pass the supplemental," he said. 

During his meeting with Spruds, Austin noted that Latvia remains among the top European contributors of military assistance to Ukraine relative to the size of their economy.

"Latvia is donating more than 1% of its GDP to help Ukraine defend itself," he said. "That just proves that countries of all sizes can make a big difference to all of our security."  

Austin also noted Latvia's investments in its own defense capabilities, including recent purchases of High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, naval strike missiles and air defense systems.  

"These systems are crucial for your security and for NATO's collective deterrence and defense," he said.

Spruds underscored his appreciation for the United States' leadership in unifying NATO allies amid Russian aggression and echoed Austin's calls to continue supporting Ukraine.  

"The continuous support for Ukraine is absolutely indispensable and instrumental," he said. "I think we've done a lot together. Latvia believes that the steady unwavering support, continued support absolutely must be there."  

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