The main directions of the foreign policy of Latvia are closely related to national security issues during active participation in the activities of structural units of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and European Union (EU). They stipulate continuing the close and active transatlantic dialogue and promoting the strengthening of strategic cooperation between Latvia and USA. Simultaneously, Latvia attributes importance also to the establishment of partner relations with the countries of Northern Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
At the NATO Summit in Warsaw in July 2016, the Heads of State and Governments agreed to deploy multinational battlegroups to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The deployment of NATO enhanced Forward Presence battalion in Latvia follows an agreement by NATO Allies to strengthen deterrence and collective defence in the Baltic region.
The NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion in Latvia is led by Canada whose military personnel will also form the core of the battalion. The battalion is manned also by Albania, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and Spain, in total, more than 1000 soldiers.
Along with Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, NATO member countries have taken several measures promoting their security and strengthened defence abilities. During the 2014 Wales Summit, countries undertook to increase their defence budgets. Likewise, Latvia undertook to increase expenditure on national defence. On 3 July 2014, the Law On the Financing of National Defence was adopted, stipulating reaching 2% of GDP by 2020. In the Report of the Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma on the 2016 budget, it is specified that the field of defence is a priority, therefore 2% of GDP will be used for defence financing in 2018 already. Importance is attributed to both the amount of budget and the use thereof in developing directions that ensure the attainment of goals set by NATO in the development of abilities. In Latvia, resources allocated for national defence are assessed according to the NATO’s definition. Under current circumstances, it is important to use resources for the areas that are closely related to the improvement of defence abilities. The current planned financing does not ensure resources necessary for eliminating all the deficiencies and developing the abilities of the National Armed Forces (NAF).
Latvia continues its efforts to increase the presence of NATO in the Baltic Region. As the result, NATO continues implementing the air-policing mission in the Baltic States. Taking into account Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, Latvia is interested in achieving greater presence of NATO in the region further on. Since April 2014 already, US troops are staying in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania pursuant to the rotation procedure. In September 2015, US deployed Predator drones to Latvia, which was an unprecedented event in Europe. US soldiers participated in the training and development of armed forces, as well as in public initiatives, for example, renovation of the Naujene Orphanage, construction of a fence around Ādaži Primary School, chopping of firewood for several orphanages in Latvian regions, etc. During the meetings with US officials, Latvian officials repeatedly indicated that the constant US military presence in Latvia was in our interests, since it promotes national defence and certifies the unity and solidarity of the Alliance.
Despite the enhanced attention paid by the US to the Asia-Pacific Region, it simultaneously is and remains the closest ally of European countries. Due to this reason exactly, joint trainings vividly indicate the presence of NATO in the region and provide an opportunity to strengthen the military abilities of Europe. Steadfast Pinnacle and Steadfast Pyramid exercises that took place in Latvia were one of collective solidarity acknowledgements in 2015. Their goal was to improve the abilities of superior officers and commanders to plan and manage joint operations. Exercises were based on the Comprehensive Operations Planning Directive that is the main join operations planning document of the Alliance.
Latvia will continue supporting the development of EU civil and military abilities, which would provide European countries with necessary crisis management resources. Latvia participates in the EU military naval operation EUNAVFOR MED (European Union Naval Force Mediterranean) and the EU training mission in Mali EUTM Mali (European Union Training Mission in Mali), as well as ensured contribution to the EU military mission in the Central African Republic. At the same time, mandates in missions EUTM SOMALIA (European Union Training Mission Somalia) and EU NAVFOR ATALANTA (European Union Naval Force Operation Atalanta) have been extended until the end of 2016. NAF soldiers participate also in the NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan. The goal of this mission is to provide support to the Government and National Defence and Security Forces of Afghanistan in guaranteeing security, with the Government of Afghanistan undertaking full responsibility for security in the entire country.
Currently, the most important directions of development of NAF abilities include ensuring early warning and understanding of the situation to be able to respond to any kinds of threats in a timely manner. Within the framework of this priority, the project of development of air defence and air surveillance abilities and the development of the command control system was initiated. In addition, the development of reconnaissance abilities is also planned in the medium term, including the creation of drone units.
To increase the mobility and firepower of NAF units, Land Forces Infantry Brigade Mechanisation Project was initiated and the development of indirect fire support abilities is planned. In the field of combat support, the development of military engineers’ abilities was initiated, stipulating the development of different mobility and counter-mobility abilities, supporting the movement and defence of own and allied forces, obstructing the movement of hostile forces and, if necessary, providing support to civil society.
Simultaneously, taking into account the nature of the current threat, an additional emphasis in developing abilities is put on the improvement of abilities of those units that are critical for eliminating/neutralising the hybrid war threat.