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Austin To U.S. Troops: Be Ready To Defend “Every Inch” of NATO Territory

By tom On Tuesday, August 09 th, 2022 · no Comments · In And more news stories ,News stories ,Writing

By Tom Squitieri
Red Snow News
LIELVARDE AIR BASE, Latvia — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told a group of U.S. military personnel to get off the base and learn about the countryside because “you are here to defend every inch of NATO territory.”

Austin stopped at the Lielvarde Air Base in Latvia on his way to Riga to meet with a small force of U.S. personnel. The 600-some Americans are at this Latvian air base but they are not part of the NATO battlegroup.

Austin, who is to meet with Latvian leaders on Wednesday, forcefully reminded the U.S. troops that they better be prepared to fight alongside Latvians.

“Make sure you get out and see a little bit of the country because these are your partners,” Austin said. “You are here for a reason and something very well could happen.

“We gonna make sure we know the people we are committed to fighting alongside,” he said. “See some of the land …that .you may have to protect one day.”

In response, several of the U.S  service members told Austin they want more training with the Latvians.

More U.S.-Latvia training is also one of the many things the Latvians are expected to ask Austin for on Wednesday, according to a senior defense official who briefed some reporters Tuesday night.

On the Latvian wish-list: marine domain awareness and heavy capabilities; air defense capabilities; long-range fire capabilities; military mobility (meaning railroads, roads, airports); a substantial increase in force size.. with the Latvians considering conscription.

The official said the Baltic nations were asking for HIMARS before the Ukraine conflict demonstrated their value.

The meetings Austin is to have are to “talk about and see what we should be doing,” and not to announce anything, the official said. The Latvians were eager for him to meet the president and come to Latvia.

The official said the Russians have improved tactically but not strategically.

The official also said there are about 5,000 U.S. troops in the four Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. The rotational forces in Latvia come from Romania or Poland. “All of the battle groups should be scaleable up to a brigade size (with) persistent rotation flexibility,” the official said.

The official said the Latvians recognize that most of the Russian forces that were on their border, and were thought to be elite troops, are gone and pulled away to fight in Ukraine. So the “threat” is not as it was earlier. But they have to assess what it will be like one year or more when those troops (in theory) return and reconstitute, the official said.

Latvia also is concerned about Belarus moving more into becoming a military integration with Moscow, the official said.

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