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Latvia - Military Policy

In the immediate aftermath of indepedence one of the important debates centered on the issue of whether Latvia required its own armed forces. According to one argument against a national armed forces, the most likely aggressor was Russia, and if this state wants to violate Latvia's sovereignty by force, even the best equipped and most dedicated Latvian army could slow down such an assault only for a brief period of time. Those supporting a national armed forces pointed to their possible contribution in establishing law and order within the republic, in coping with emergencies, in controlling borders, and in providing a symbol of statehood and a source of pride.

Those with a knowledge of Latvian history explained that in June 1940, when the Soviet Union presented Latvia with an ultimatum, the lack of any military resistance helped to dupe many in the world into accepting the myth of Latvia's voluntarily joining the Soviet Union. Any new ultimatum from Russia would very likely include a serious consideration of armed resistance by the Latvian forces, even if only to prove a point to the rest of the world. Former Minister of Defense Talavs Jundzis provided exactly such a rationale: "Sometimes I am asked: 'How can you with your 9,000-man defense forces stand up against a 300,000 or up to 3 million-man aggressor force?' The answer is simple. Our resistance by itself will generate an international reaction. It will be clear to everyone as to what is happening and even if we are again occupied, international public opinion will not accept such a regime and it would not last long."

Jundzis provided another reason for Latvia's armed forces, which was based on Latvian historical experience: "Aggressive announcements from the Organization of Russian Army Officers about their disobedience to their commanders and their readiness to use weapons to defend themselves remind us of our struggle for independence in 1919, when after the end of World War I, the abandoned soldiers from Russian and German armies united under the leadership of the adventurer Bermont to attack and occupy the newly born state of Latvia."

Latvia's defense concept was initially based on the Swedish-Finnish rapid response force model. Joining NATO in 2004 brought essential changes to the Latvian Defence Concept, as Latvia became a part of the joint collective defence system and participates in joint activities to facilitate security in the world. After becoming a NATO member, Latvia inevitably receives security guaranties, though it also has to assume the co-responsibilities for the international security processes including the real participation in the international security activities.

Thus, the activities and development of the National Armed Forces are aiming to achieve the three main tasks: provide the Latvian defence, fulfill the obligations of the NATO and the EU states, and participate in the international military operations. Historic experiences and current international security environment form reality of the Latvian security. It cannot be viewed out of the international security context, which is characterised by increased expansion of asymmetrical threat international terrorism, expansion of NBC-weapons, ethnic conflicts. This threat goes beyond the national borders, and the key to its elimination is the mutual co-operation capabilities of the countries. With the purpose to give its contribution to the strengthening of the international security environment and elimination of threat, Latvia continues to develop its defence and anti-terrorism capabilities for participation in the international operations.

The full membership in NATO motivated a review and approval by the Government and the Saeima (Parliament) the National Defence Concept, which defines the basic principles of the Latvian defence and the guidelines for the development of the defence capabilities in the new security situation. The Concept states that the basis of the national defence is the collective defence within NATO and EU, professional armed forces, as well as a close co-operation between the armed forces and the society.

The principle of the collective defence creates a prerequisite for Latvia to concentrate its efforts and resources to achieve the military capabilities, which fulfil the obligations of the allies, ensure the Latvian participation in the international operations, as well as increase its defence capabilities. Currently, the development of the Latvian defence system is defined by:

  • necessity of the modern command and control systems, development and security of the communications and data transmission systems;
  • provision of the efficient military combat capabilities, sophisticatedly equipped and armed units;
  • defence enhancement to fight the NBC-weapons;
  • readiness of units to participate in the international military and peace-keeping operations;
  • necessity to establish modern training bases.

For ensuring the compliance to the NATO requirements and for receiving the ad hoc support from the allies, Latvia continues to improve its hostnations support system. Necessity to have professional armed forces is a prerequisite for a gradual transition to fully professional armed forces by 2006 by dismissing the conscript service. MoDs and NAFs experts have produced a concept to implement this transition. It will allow to utilise resources required for the numerically small Latvian armed forces in a more efficient way.

Recruitment of motivated people to the national defence is essential for establishing and developing of the armed forces, which are based on the professional military service. Therefore, the systems of recruitment and military conscription are being improved in order to create interest in people and ensure competitiveness in the labour market. Principle of co-operation between the armed forces and the society is a key prerequisite for achieving the goals and tasks of the national defence. The public awareness about the national defence system, armed forces and their principles form a solid support to the national security and defence. Due to the limited resources, as well as the participation in the collective security system Latvia does not need to build a massive mobilisation system. However, the co-responsibility of the publics for the national defence is preserved through the National Guard.

The armed forces capabilities allow them to professionally clear the natural and unnatural catastrophes, carry out the explosive ordnance disposal, search and rescue operations, as well as ecological monitoring. There is a similar co-operation between the public and the civil institutions for carrying out the military tasks they provide civil expertise, mobilisation resources and host-nations support.

Principle of international military co-operation envisages an expanded international co-operation, including co-operation with the NATO and the Baltic States, co-operation with the EU and the Baltic Sea region countries and co-operation with the NATO partner countries.

After joining NATO, Latvia retained its current international bi-lateral co-operation projects, though it will also define new fields of co-operation with the NATO states to ensure efficient integration to NATO. After NATO integration, the Baltic States continued to develop and enhance their joint military projects, thus ensuring efficient utilisation of resources and improvement of the joint military capabilities.

Latvian goal in respect of the European security and defence policy is to facilitate the stability and security within Europe, strengthen the EU crisis management capabilities and contribute to the transatlantic co-operation. Co-operation with the NATO partner countries, including Russia, is a way to facilitate trust, security and stability within Europe. NATO membership gives an opportunity to Latvia to co-participate in and contribute to the further development of this co-operation by sharing its experiences with the CIS and the South-East European countries, thus facilitating the process of democratic reforms in these NATO partner states.

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Page last modified: 08-11-2012 17:06:06 ZULU