Courtesy of the Baltic Course      February 26, 2016

On 25 February, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics met in Washington, D.C., with the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to talk about bilateral relations including security policy and economic cooperation, the preparations for the NATO Summit in Warsaw and Latvia’s accession process to the OECD as well as the situation in Eastern Partnership countries and settling the conflict in Syria, reported BC press service of MFA.

Both diplomāts were of one mind that the upcoming NATO Summit in Warsaw should give a strong signal of the Alliance’s ability to protect each member state against 21st century threats. It is much better, Antony Blinken said, to implement preventive measures than to combat the consequences and so U.S. forces shall be in the Baltic region as long as necessary.Edgars Rinkevics expressed gratitude for the support given to reinforce Latvia’s security capacity, for the long-term presence of U.S. forces on a rotational basis and for regular exercises in the Baltic region. Our eastern border as well as the outer border of NATO and the EU is one of Latvia’s priorities. In this regard, we give thanks to the United States for assistance, for supporting border monitoring and enhancement of security and we are interested in working closely with the United States of America to reinforce our eastern border, the Minister said.

The Deputy Secretary of State also expressed satisfaction that Latvian defence spending is to increase to 1.4 percent of GDP in 2016 and that this spending is expected to rise to 2 percent of GDP by 2018. Antony Blinken said that this is a good example and stimulus also to other NATO member states of a responsible attitude toward security.

Speaking of Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, and Belarus, both diplomats agreed that it is important to have an individualized approach while also maintaining a combined platform for cooperation.

Latvia’s talks to join the OECD are in the final phase and we hope to join the organisation already this year, the Minister said. Active efforts are underway to combat bribery in international business and in the working groups for state-owned enterprises.

Minister Rinkevics expressed the opinion that, given the geopolitical situation, for Latvia it is important to work on the diversification of energy, and this is also an area where there is a good potential to cooperate with the United States.

Antony Blinken also commented positively on the decision of the Latvian Parliament in its final reading to agree on the law concerning the transfer of five properties to the Jewish Community in Latvia.