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Fact Sheet: The United States and Latvia – NATO Allies and Global Partners

August 30, 2013

President Obama hosted Latvian President Andris Berzins, along with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, for a meeting in the White House on August 30. The visit underscored the close ties between the United States and the Baltic states, which are grounded in our shared values, ideals, and interests. The leaders highlighted ongoing cooperation in the following areas:

Defense and Security Cooperation:

•      Afghanistan: Latvia is a stalwart supporter of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan and has committed to continue supporting NATO's post-2014 non-combat mission. Latvia has contributed to a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Faryab province and currently has 140 troops deployed to the Nordic-Baltic Task Force in Mazar-e-Sharif. Additionally, Latvian Special Operations Forces support the ISAF mission in Kabul. Riga is a key port along the Northern Distribution Network, which facilitates the transport of materiel to coalition troops in Afghanistan and serves as a retrograde route for materiel leaving the theater. Latvia has pledged $500,000 annually from 2015 to 2017 to support the Afghan National Security Forces.

•      Cyber Security: The government of Latvia has recognized the danger of increased cyber threats and is working together with NATO, the EU, the Baltic states, and the United States to strengthen cyber security. The United States supports Latvia's efforts through visits by U.S. experts and Latvian participation in EUCOM- and NATO-sponsored events and U.S.-based training. The government of Latvia is also a partner in the Freedom Online Coalition, a group of governments collaborating to advance Internet freedom.

•      Defense and Security Cooperation: U.S. and Latvian troops participate in a range of joint and multilateral exercises, including SABER STRIKE, BALTOPS, and STEADFAST JAZZ 13. Latvian soldiers and defense personnel also receive technical training and strategic education in the United States.

•      NATO Allies: As NATO allies, the United States and Latvia are committed to each other's defense and partner in critical areas around the world. Latvia contributes important capabilities to the Alliance's collective security, including the training of U.S.-certified joint terminal attack controllers (JTAC) who coordinate air support for ground units during operations.

•      The State Partnership Program: Latvia has partnered with the Michigan National Guard since 1993. The program has brought together hundreds of Guard personnel and their Latvian counterparts through training and outreach activities. Latvia and the Michigan National Guard are also joint providers of military assistance to Liberia through a program to train non-commissioned officers.

Diplomatic Cooperation and Global Development:

•      Development Cooperation: Latvia's development assistance priorities include Central Asia and the EU Eastern Partnership countries. Latvia also works closely with the United States to provide border management and customs training to Central Asian countries. The Latvian government is also preparing to submit its first Emerging Donor Challenge Fund proposal, for which the government of Latvia and the U.S. Department of State would co-finance a border management project in Uzbekistan.

•      Eastern Partnership: Along with the United States, Latvia places great emphasis on assisting the EU's Eastern Partnership countries. Latvia's efforts in this area have included supporting land registration modernization in Azerbaijan; conducting border guard training in Belarus and Georgia, in conjunction with Estonia and Lithuania; and providing training to the Georgian armed forces. Additionally, Latvia conducts economic development and rule of law projects in Moldova through the U.S.-Latvia Agreement on Supporting Justice Sector Reform in Moldova, which was signed in June 2012.

•      Global Cooperation: Latvia has been a strong ally in advancing human rights and democratic values around the world. Latvia has taken a leading role in encouraging democratic reforms in Belarus and helping Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova integrate more fully into European institutions. Latvia deploys seamen to the EU-led anti-piracy and anti-robbery Operation ATALANTA off the coast of Somalia and provides military training in Mali.

Economic, Energy, and Environmental Cooperation:

•      Energy Security: Latvia actively pursues a national strategy of energy diversification. A key portion of Latvia's energy diversification strategy involves the promotion of renewable energy and energy efficiency. With half of its territory covered by forests, wood biomass is one of the primary fields for development. Latvian companies are pursuing U.S. technology and partnerships in wind power, biomass gasification, and waste energy solutions. These efforts support the Latvian government's commitment to produce 40 percent of total energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020.

•      Trade, Investment, and Jobs: Bilateral trade in goods between the United States and Latvia totaled $760 million in 2012. Coal and petroleum gases, machinery, and vehicles are among the United States' major exports to Latvia. Recent partnerships between U.S. and Latvian businesses have been concentrated in the information technology, transportation and logistics, energy, and heavy industry sectors. The government of Latvia has expressed strong support for the U.S.-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) negotiations. T-TIP aims to boost economic growth in the United States and in the EU and add to the more than 13 million American and EU jobs already supported by transatlantic trade and investment. In May, Latvia was selected to receive a roadmap for membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Latvia will formally adopt the euro on January 1, 2014.

Educational and Cultural Ties:

•      Educational Exchange Programs: Since 1991, the United States has awarded Fulbright fellowships to 177 outstanding scholars and students from Latvia to study and conduct research in the United States. Each year, approximately eight Latvian students and scholars travel to the United States. Additionally, in the past 20 years, more than 150 U.S. Fulbright scholars and students have conducted research and lectured at universities in Latvia.

•      Cultural Programs: A robust series of cultural exchanges between the United States and Latvia in the fields of music, literature, humanities, and museum communities have strengthened ties between American and Estonian societies. Latvians and Americans share a deep appreciation for music. This year, internationally acclaimed Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons was appointed the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Well-known American Jazz musicians regularly visit Latvia. Recent performers include Bobby McFarrin, Liz Wright, Christian McBride, and Medeski, Martin & Wood.

•      Professional Exchange Programs: Since 1991, 412 Latvians have participated in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), the Department of State's premier professional exchange program, which brings current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields to the United States to experience this country firsthand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts. In addition, approximately 300 Latvians took part in privately funded professional exchanges with the United States last year, including the Summer Work Travel, Intern, College and University Student, and Camp Counselor programs.

Barack Obama, Fact Sheet: The United States and Latvia – NATO Allies and Global Partners Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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