A working group of the U.S. Defense Department and Latvia’s Defense Ministry is currently holding talks in Riga on improving Latvia’s military posture. The intent of the discussions is to produce a draft defense plan for Latvia, based on a recent assessment drawn up at the Pentagon on the present state and prospects for development of Latvia’s forces. The plan encompasses security assistance, training, military liaison, joint exercises and links with the NATO command in Europe. It also covers Latvia’s participation in the Estonian-Latvian-Lithuanian joint defense projects: the Baltic Battalion (BaltBat), the naval squadron (Baltron) and the airspace control system (Baltnet).
The Pentagon team has had meetings with President Guntis Ulmanis, cabinet ministers and the parliament’s foreign policy and defense committees. The Washington suggested and Ulmanis agreed to increasing the country’s defense budget to at least 2 percent of GDP. The current budget, at some 0.7 percent of GDP, is one of Europe’s lowest–a situation attributed to the government’s fiscal conservatism.
The joint working group was created under the U.S.-Baltic Charter signed in January of this year. The draft defense plan aims to bring Latvian forces closer to NATO standards with a view to possible accession to the alliance. The timing of these military consultations implicitly signal political support for Latvia at the time of a Russian campaign against the country. (BNS, May 5 and 6)
THE UKRAINE TO RECEIVE U.S. ASSISTANCE IN NUCLEAR POWER GENERATION.