Latvia, Riga, Dzelzscela railway bridge crossing Daugava River (Mel Stuart/Westend61 GmbH/Newscom)

Latvia, Riga, Dzelzscela railway bridge crossing Daugava River (Mel Stuart/Westend61 GmbH/Newscom)

Some of the United States’ most eager and engaged international partners are in Eastern Europe. A new report by The Heritage Foundation highlights the contributions of America’s Eastern European allies and underscores the importance of security cooperation between the U.S. and the Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

As noted by Luke Coffey, Heritage’s Margaret Thatcher Fellow, the Baltic states have transformed their militaries since the end of the Cold War:

The Baltic states have done what many thought at the time was impossible: They developed modern, Western-trained armed forces, joined NATO, and have served gallantly and selflessly in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Balkans. Due in part to leadership and commitment from successive U.S. Administrations, the Baltic region is secure and prosperous.

Because of their tumultuous history, the Baltic states do not take their freedom for granted. They work tirelessly to pull their weight in NATO as net contributors to security in the region and abroad. Despite the strides the Baltic militaries have made since regaining independence, U.S. engagement is still a vital component of regional security—which makes the small American contribution to Steadfast Jazz 2013 all the more disconcerting.

The Baltic states are tied to the U.S. through NATO membership and by a shared worldview that embraces economic freedom, civil liberties, and strong democratic institutions. According to The Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal 2013 Index of Economic Freedom, Estonia is the second-strongest economy in the eurozone and the 13th freest in the world.

The U.S. has an interest in a secure, peaceful, and prosperous Eastern Europe. As the recent Heritage report urges, the U.S. should redouble its engagement in the Baltics and consider implementing a series of recommendations to improve relations with its allies in the region.

Instead of showing hesitancy and indifference to Eastern Europe, it’s time for the U.S. to deepen cooperation with our close friends in the Baltics. The Baltic states have been fearless allies of the United States and strong contributors to the NATO alliance; they deserve public acknowledgement and appreciation—and a strong, active partnership with the U.S.

Paige Haynes is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.