US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will conclude a two-day trip to Latvia today.
During his visit, Austin met with senior government officials to discuss the US military presence in the Baltic Sea region generally and Latvia in particular. The Biden administration deployed additional troops to the region prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Presently, there are approximately 1000 US troops in Latvia. Additionally, the US Congress has approved $180 million in military aid to the Baltics (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) through 2022.
Latvia considers this financial aid insufficient. The presence of US troops, combined with the country’s NATO membership, are the most effective means available to deter conventional Russian invasion. However, these factors do not sufficiently mitigate the likelihood of asymmetric attacks by Russia or its allies. Belarus’ use of unauthorized migrants against the Baltics last summer, for example, would not have been prevented by US deployments, but a more local military with increased capabilities could have responded more effectively.
As such, expect the US to approve additional funding for the Baltics in the near future. In the medium-term, these funds will likely be focused on building up defensive capabilities against Russian provocative incursions on air, land, and sea.
Connor is a Content Editor and Analyst on the Daily Brief team and a member of the Communications team. His primary research focus is Latin America