The flags were flying across Latvia March 29 to mark the country's 15 years as a full member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), writes.

On April 4, NATO will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its existence, marking 2019 as an anniversary of NATO in Latvia and throughout the Alliance.

Latvia's path to participation in the alliance was launched immediately after the restoration of independence in the early 1990s in full realization that the task would be a long and demanding one but that the reward - an unequivocal rebuttal of the lingering claim that the Baltics were part of Russia's "sphere of influence" - would be worth it.

As time has passed and Russia's actions have become aggressive in Georgia and Ukraine, the wisdom of NATO accession is now self-evident.

At the same time, Latvia's contribution to collective defense of the Alliance is also essential. Taking care of its security and being a responsible ally, Latvia participates in various NATO operations, provides the necessary host nation support to Allied soldiers in Latvia, and commits to investing at least 2% of GDP on defense, one of only a handful of NATO members to do so.

Recent years have seen Latvia contributing brainpower as well as military muscle, too. Among those marking the occasion was Jānis Sārts, head of the Rīga-based NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence (STRATCOMCOE) which is quickly developing a reputation as an influential and innovative research center on issues of real relevance in both the military and civilian spheres.

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