Attending an extraordinary government meeting, President Guntis Ulmanis sharply criticized the cabinet of ministers, the parliament, and Latvia’s political parties for neglecting the country’s defense posture. Ulmanis pointed out that the 1997 military budget amounted to only 0.67 percent of GDP and that the same level has been provided for 1998. This is the lowest level in Europe, and less than half the ratio in Estonia and Lithuania, Ulmanis said. Moreover, the government plans to reduce the country’s already meager military manpower levels by at least 20 percent in 1998. Prime Minister Guntars Krasts was able to promise an increase in defense spending only in 1999. Ulmanis pointed out that this situation risks jeopardizing Latvia’s quest to join NATO. (BNS, December 18)
Russian Border Troops Yield to Georgia in Disputed Sector.