Austin Will Travel to Latvia to Affirm US Commitment to Baltic Region - Pentagon

© AP Photo / Danial HakimU.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a plenary session at the 19th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue, Asia's annual defense and security forum, in Singapore, Saturday, June 11, 2022.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a plenary session at the 19th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue, Asia's annual defense and security forum, in Singapore, Saturday, June 11, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.08.2022
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WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is set to travel to Latvia next week to hold bilateral talks and affirm the United States’ commitment to the Baltic region, the Defense department said on Friday.
“The Secretary will then travel to Latvia to meet with senior government officials to affirm US commitment and persistent presence in Latvia and the broader Baltic region,” the Defense Department said in a statement.
Austin will depart on August 8 and the trip will also include a stop at the Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, to attend a change of command ceremony, the statement said.
Earlier on Friday, Latvia announced the suspension of visa issuance to Russian citizens except in cases where one is needed to attend a funeral of a close relative. Latvia decided to undertake such a move after Estonia did so earlier.
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Austin's visit will take place amid a renewed security interest by NATO in the Baltic states due to Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine. Latvia in July asked the United States to supply it with high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) just as it has supplied Ukraine.
The Latvian government recently decided to increase its defense budget to 2.5% of the GDP by 2025 and said it further plans to allocate about $763 million toward military expenditures.
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