On 5 March in Washington, D.C., the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Edgars Rinkēvičs, together with the Foreign Ministers of the Baltic States met with the United States Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, for a discussion on preparations for the U.S.-Baltic States Summit to be held this spring in Washington. The officials also discussed cooperation between the Baltic States region and the U.S. in security policy.
During the meeting, the parties shared views on energy security issues. Minister Rinkēvičs welcomed the increase in U.S. natural gas exports and the growth of the global market for liquefied natural gas in general. Due to market reforms already put in place, and infrastructure projects, including those with support from the European Union, the Baltic States have gained an opportunity to diversify their supply sources, Edgars Rinkēvičs said. He noted that the first deliveries of liquefied natural gas from U.S. companies had been received, and gas prices had approached those in Western Europe.
The Minister outlined the position concerning the unanimity of the Baltic States towards the Nord Stream 2 project, which has clear geopolitical goals, namely, it would increase dependence on a single supplier, and that does not comply with EU principles, which put emphasis on energy security, the diversification of supply sources, and promotion of competition. Latvia supports a smooth adoption of amendments to the EU Gas Directive in order to promote the Energy Union objectives, improve the functioning of the EU’s internal gas market and create legal certainty concerning both the ongoing and planned projects of pipelines from third countries, said Edgars Rinkēvičs.
Referring to hybrid threat, Edgars Rinkēvičs spoke about the role of social networks in election campaigns, which is an issue of global significance for democracies. Hybrid threat has become a serious challenge to the Baltic States region, Europe and NATO alike, he noted. The intensity of information campaigns and cyber attacks is increasing, and we can observe attempts to influence elections in Europe, which pose risks to internal political stability in the countries and to their unity. The Baltic States continue enhancing their capabilities for better protecting themselves against cyber attacks and information campaigns, the Latvian Foreign Minister added, highlighting Baltic experience and expertise in cyber security, strategic communications and energy security – developed by NATO centres of excellence in Riga, Tallinn, and Vilnius – and in other aspects of hybrid threat. We should draw on that expertise to tackle such threats in an effective manner, said Edgars Rinkēvičs.
The Minister called for further development of cooperation between the Baltic States and the U.S. on cyber security through expanding the scope of experience sharing, training and joint exercises, and a more active engagement with the private sector.
Edgars Rinkēvičs pledged the Baltic States’ support for the international coalition in the fight against terrorism by sending their military instructors or providing financial contribution. The Minister pointed out that the Baltic States were taking part in NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.
The coalition should continue to coordinate international measures against supporters of Daesh, said the Minister. With Daesh losing territories, and terrorists feeling international pressure, threats are becoming increasingly asymmetric in nature. Minister Rinkēvičs expressed confidence that the coalition has a good coordination mechanism to respond to a new type of threats. Therefore, effective adaptation to changing threats should go on through new strategies and broader cooperation following the principles set out in the coalition’s guidelines, Edgars Rinkēvičs stressed.
The officials also discussed preparations for the U.S.-Baltic States Summit scheduled for 3 April in Washington. The event is to be opened by the U.S. President Donald Trump jointly with the Presidents of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania.
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