THE COMPLICATED POLITICS OF LATVIA’S DEFENSE BUDGET.
Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 16
On January 23 Fatherland and Freedom, the junior party in Latvia’s coalition government, issued a statement of concern over recent attempts to “discredit and delay Latvia’s movement toward NATO.” Citing the fabricated interview with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, Fatherland and Freedom’s council expressed “even more serious concern over attempts in parliament to reduce the already insufficient defense spending. Adoption of such a decision would clearly show a change in Latvia’s political course, with our country [Latvia] increasingly lagging behind Estonia and Lithuania.” The party council is urging Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans to require that the Social-Democratic Alliance (SDA) support an increase in the defense budget as a condition of its participation in the government (BNS, January 23).
Fatherland and Freedom, until last November the senior party in the governing coalition, had planned the 1999 defense budget at 1.1 percent of the gross national product; the new government, headed by Latvia’s Way, provided for 1 percent. The government then submitted to parliament a defense budget equal to 0.9 percent of GDP. President Guntis Ulmanis and Fatherland and Freedom urge that, at the very least, the 1 percent target be reinstated. Kristopans has responded by promising to work toward that target. His minority government, however, depends on support from the Social-Democratic Alliance, which advocates cutting defense spending, rather than increasing it. The SDA, a populist party, might relent if it gets one or two cabinet posts in the economics sphere.
OPPOSITION REACTS TO RUSSIA-BELARUS PARLIAMENTARY SESSION.