Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 202

Following President Guntis Ulmanis’ decision to remove the Armed Forces Commander, Juris Eihmanis, on financial misappropriation charges (see the Monitor, October 27), Prime Minister Guntars Krasts is personally cleaning up the Defense Ministry. On October 27, Krasts dismissed Defense Minister Talavs Jundzis for tolerating lack of discipline in the hierarchy and for tardiness in implementing military reform.

Appointing himself acting minister, Krasts promptly launched investigations and disciplinary measures. The chief of military counterintelligence, Colonel Gunars Kandis, was suspended and faces dismissal on charges that he forged his education credentials. Two colonels–one of them the Home Guard’s acting chief of staff, the other a former acting army commander–were demoted. A group of financial and supply officers, involved in Eihmanis’ “apartment scandal,” were variously removed or downgraded.

In announcing these measures, Krasts commented that “defense has been one of Latvia’s failures since the restoration of independence.” His stated goal is to jump-start military reform and ensure transparency of financing, procurement, and supply processes in the Defense Ministry.

Jundzis is a Christian Democratic politician and a widely published military theorist. He served as defense minister in 1991-93 and again in 1997-98, and chaired the parliament’s Defense Committee for part of that time. As minister he seemed unable to effectively control the military services. Eihmanis was promoted from the post of Home Guard commander to that of Armed Forces commander only a few months ago. He succeeded Janis Dalbins, who was forced to resign under intense Russian pressure after attending in uniform last March a parade of Latvian Legion veterans (see above). Jundzis’ and Eihmanis’ attempts to introduce reforms were constrained by a totally inadequate defense budget. Krasts proposes to raise that budget to a still inadequate level of 1 percent of GDP next year (BNS, Radio Riga, October 28, 29).