Government approves the new National Defence Concept
On 5 September, government approved the new National Defence Concept developed by the Ministry of Defence in very short time. Concept describes fundamental strategic elements of Latvia’s military defence, various priorities and activities for peacetime, national security threat and wartime scenarios.
‘According to military threat analysis, Russia will remain the main long-term threat to our national security. New National Defence Concept is based on lessons learned from Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine – we now know full well what happens when invasion results in, albeit temporary, loss of territories and enormous human losses along with complete annihilation of critical and civilian infrastructure. The new National Defence Concept therefore aims to enhance collective defence capabilities of the National Armed Forces and NATO in a way that would allow to completely defend every inch of Latvian soil from the first seconds of military crisis,’ Defence Minister Ināra Mūrniece underlined.
National Defence Concept (NDC) focuses on two key strategic areas of national defence – stronger defence and deterrence capabilities, and stronger resilience, capacity and will to defend Latvia.
National defence and independence of Latvia is the common concern of the whole society, not reserved exclusively to Ministry of Defence and other security services. That is why NDC specifically highlights national defence obligations of private individuals, communities and municipalities, as well as government bodies, encouraging all stakeholders to get self-organised and drive the common defence agenda.
Engineering and technical characteristics of facilities on Latvia’s external border need to be upgraded immediately, without delay. Adequate physical and technical security of external border is vital for defending every inch of Latvia’s soil from the first seconds of a potential military conflict. ‘To protect our national border against all types of threats, I have requested the National Armed Forces to produce a counter-mobility plan, which would also include optional use of anti-tank mines,’ Defence Minister informed.
According to the new Concept, development of air defence, coastal defence, long-range rocket artillery and unmanned aerial vehicle capabilities will remain a priority, so as the introduction of new armoured infantry fighting vehicles.
National defence requires not only well-developed military capabilities, but also highly competent National Armed Forces personnel. Adequate capabilities cannot be ensured without trained and well-prepared defence staff. According to plans, army will grow from 24,000 troops to 31,000. Additional troops will be recruited from the pool of eligible state defence service recruits and highly trained reserve army members, along with natural growth of professional service and National Guard forces. Moreover, additional 30,000 troops will be trained and armed as general reserve force members. This would bring the overall size of army to 61,000 troops.
National Guard, National Guard Cadet Force, reserve training and national defence classes will continue to complement the state defence service and ensure public participation, as well as individual preparedness for potential crisis or war.
NATO’s forward defence concept must be developed further and implemented in practice to give Latvia the resources it needs to deter attacks from potential aggressors or defend every inch of the Latvian soil. NATO’s forward defence concept envisages bigger military presence of NATO in Latvia, which should reach the size of a fully equipped brigade-size allied combat force in the long run. Brigade should be able to join National Armed Forces and defend Latvia at all times. This requires the broadest possible presence of NATO national forces in Latvia. Plans to scale up Canada-led NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Latvia to the size of brigade by 2026 have already been announced earlier. Canada has agreed to double the number of battle group’s troops by 2026 to 2,200. It has also agreed to bring 15 Leopard II tanks to Latvia this autumn. Additional troops from Italy will continue arriving until the end of this year, whereas first rotational battalion of Danish armed forces will arrive in Latvia in mid-2024.
‘If Russia is not fully defeated in Ukraine, we will see it build back its military to prior, pre-war levels in three to five years. We must make the best use of this time to bring our and NATO’s collective defence and deterrence capabilities to their maximum. Defence spending must be increased to 3% of the gross domestic product no later than in 2027. Otherwise, we will not be able to achieve the targets set out in the new national defence concept, such as developed state defence service, Latvian army reserve force and combat capabilities and, of course, stock up all necessary weapons systems,’ Minister Mūrniece emphasised.
According to National Security Law, new NDCs are produced by the Ministry of Defence and pass through the Cabinet of Ministers and Saeima at least once every election cycle, no later than 1 October of the second year of each cycle.
NDC is the basis for national defence policy, planning of national defence policy actions and operational targets, as well as estimation of resource needs. NDC determines how National Armed Forces will be developed and how government and executive branch, local governments, private individuals and legal entities shall behave in peacetime, under threats to national security and during war.
Head of the Media Relations Section
Military Public Affairs Department