Arms control experts of Belarusian Defence Ministry pay visit to Latvia
On 15 - 17 February, arms control experts of the Belarusian Defence Ministry will pay an annual working visit to Latvia to agree on the continuation of bilateral defence cooperation in 2022.
To ensure openness and transparency in bilateral relations between Latvia and Belarus, an agreement on additional confidence and security-building measures was concluded in 2004. In addition to the OSCE Vienna Document commitments, this agreement provides for the hosting of arms control visits, more detailed exchange of information on armed forces, expert meetings and visits to military exercises.
Lithuania and Belarus have a similar additional agreement, and in the framework of these agreements the countries invite each other to observe their largest military exercises of the year.
In accordance with these commitments, Latvia also invites Belarus to observe its largest exercises every year. In 2021, this was the Land Force Mechanised Infantry Brigade exercise "Silver Arrow", which was part of the National Armed Forces exercise "Namejs 2021", which Belarus did not attend.
By hosting visits to military units and organising the observation of exercises, OSCE participating States demonstrate their openness and commitment to their international obligations under the Vienna Document. Bilateral agreements are implemented voluntarily by States, showing additional openness and transparency.
It is essential to continue cooperation in the area of arms control, especially now that some countries have withdrawn from their commitments and are disregarding the procedures of arms control.
On 2 February, within the framework of the Bilateral Agreement, Latvia requested a bilateral inspection in Belarus, which was rejected under the pretext of Covid-19 restrictions. After this formal rejection, Belarus instead invited inspectors to observe the final phase of Union Resolve-2022 on 18-20 February; Latvia and Lithuania have accepted this offer. The Ministry of Defence of Latvia hopes that this visit will result in the necessary transparency, and seeks assurance from the Belarusian authorities that future requests for inspections by Latvia will not be refused.
Furthermore, as part of the crisis response mechanism set out in the OSCE Vienna Document, the Baltic States asked Belarus to clarify the scope of its military exercises, at an OSCE meeting convened in Vienna on 14 February. Unfortunately, Belarus did not provide the required information.
Although Latvia considers the Belarusian approach to the implementation of arms control obligations to be selective, Latvia firmly believes that bilateral arms control cooperation is an essential mechanism for ensuring openness and promoting security in the region.
Latvia stands for transparency and implementation of relevant arms control agreements and commitments, and will continue all political and diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the security situation in the region.