On Wednesday, 22 November, the Minister for Defence Artis Pabriks and members of the Defence, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee of the Saeima agreed that Latvia is interested in continuing cooperation with NATO in policing Baltic airspace; therefore, it is necessary to request NATO to continue this policing after 2014, when the current agreement expires.
“NATO’s contribution in policing Latvia’s airspace is invaluable. Unfortunately, in the near future, our country’s limited finances will not allow us to maintain the financially demanding air force needed for airspace surveillance. Therefore, even at the parliamentary level, when meeting with ambassadors and parliamentarians of NATO member states, we will discuss the possibilities of NATO to prolong Baltic airspace policing,” said Ainārs Latkovskis, Chairman of the Committee. For this reason, the members of the Committee will meet with U.S. Ambassador Judith Garber as soon as 13 December.
As the Minister for Defence informed the MPs at today’s meeting, Latvia has opened negotiations on prolonging airspace surveillance for another four years until 2018. According to Pabriks, it would be in Latvia’s best interests to continue this cooperation even longer because in the foreseeable future we will not have the finances necessary to assume this task ourselves.
“If we wanted to achieve the same result without NATO and its four fighter planes in Siauliai, Lithuania, we would need to invest approximately EUR 1.5 billion in the endeavour. That would be an inexpedient use of the finances of the Baltic States,” the Minister said and pointed out that the entire Latvian defence budget amounts to approximately EUR 200 million.
At the same time, the Minister stressed that Latvia must think how to gradually increase its defence budget so that by 2020 it complies with NATO’s requisite 2% of GDP. Latvia cannot depend only on the collective security guarantees ensured by NATO and to request various financial favours from the Alliance without showing any desire to increase investments in its own defence budget, Pabriks explained. Of course, an increase in the defence budget must be closely linked with the country’s rate of economic development, as well as with its ability to use these resources effectively and to account for them, the Minister added.
Saeima Press Service